While the efforts of this country to combat malnutrition have been recognised internationally, it must also guard against obesity, the Food and Health Organisation (FAO) says.

And, Director General of the FAO, José Graziano da Silva, said earlier this month that while malnutrition is decreasing, obesity and other diseases related to malnutrition are on the rise internationally.

He said striking a balance between the two is a very important question for the region and most developed countries.

da Silva, who was on an official visit to this country, said genetics can contribute to obesity.

But he said the two main reasons for obesity are the change of habits in urban population, and the neglect of local production by countries that have other sources of income, such as oil, minerals and tourism.

“So they give up producing their own food. They don’t want anymore to eat mangoes and cassava and dasheen and other local products and import more and [more] wheat,” he said, adding that food imports is one of the largest imbalances in the Caribbean,” he said.

“The import bill has been rising very quickly, even to provide food for the tourists. It is unbelievable that more tourists are coming in and we are importing more food for the tourists, when we have potential to do it internally and also to provide them different food,” da Silva said during a joint press conference with Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves.

The FAO official said his organisation is doing a lot to tackle this problem and will, in November, have a preparatory meeting on nutrition for a conference next year with the World Health Organisation.

“We hope that in this conference we will come out with a comprehensive framework to deal with this obesity issue,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dr J.R. Deep Ford, sub-regional co-ordinator of the FAO, said the FAO has been and is developing, in several of its members states, dietary guidelines linked to domestically produced food.

He said this is a very important part of the school-feeding programme, adding that his organisation wants to develop lifelong improved food choice changes and have to work with the youth and the young at all levels.

“We cannot be speaking about this challenge without recognising also the impact on the macro economy, and that is the health bill that devolved from NCDs, etc. So good food choices, utilisation of domestic products are very critical to solving what is fundamentally a health problem,” he said.

He said the fastest-growing component of the food import bill is processed foods.

“And that, in itself, is indicative of the rising problem that we have with obesity, the dependence on processed food, and we are importing those into our country,” Ford said.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines was in June recognised for halving malnutrition ahead of a 2015 target set by the United Nations.

One reply on “As undernourishment falls, obesity remains a problem”

  1. Teacherfang (@Llijame) says:

    Its very sad that some joker from overseas has to come to Vincyland to chastised us on our eating habits.

    When the first Kentucky open in Vincyland; that was the beginning of the end of our eating habits as we know it. I remember lamenting pitifully at the long lines outside of Kentucky on a SUNDAY EVENING no less and cracking jokes with my friends, that Vincentians have abandoned the kitchen for fast food and that some man dey home hungry(sexist joke intended) Kentucky Fried Chicken was the fist step in the Americanization of Vincy culinary habits. It was just a matter of time before we move on to bigger and worse things to eat, like all the processed food in a can or box, to just microwave and go.

    I do not believe we can be entirely self-sufficient in feeding ourselves given our limited natural resources but we can drastically reduced our food import from what it is at the moment. Such effort cannot happen in a vacuum;it will take real political will and a renewal of national pride in our local food to achieve the overall goal of a healthier eating populace.We over the years have been deluded by slick advertisement from outside and apathetic LEADERSHIP within in elevating these processed food and all things foreign over our own breadfruit dasheen tannia cassava etc, in a desperate attempt to “keep up with the Joneses”. We have to reverse this trend somehow, if we want to wean ourselves away from these unhealthy processed food.

    I don’t know if Gonsalves is the right person to lead on this issue, after all one look at Gonsalves and you know, he is part of the problem rather tha the solution. Its one thing to speak about wellness revolution its another thing to put words into action. The Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Education etc and other vested organisation are the engine to drive this initiative of instilling and renewing national pride in our local food.

    Eating right is just one aspect of healthy living, we need to combine this with physical activities…and I want to recommend something to the NDP folks while we are on this topic. It would be constructive if the NDP took the initiative and organised some walk-a-thons across the country for ALL Vincentians. And for just one day, the two leaders Gosalves and Eustace will walk side by side in a show of solidarity to healthy living.

    Everything can’t be about politics, right Peter?

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