Minister of Health, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, is calling for parents to get their children to drink more water as part of the fight against non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
He said there is a culture in schools, where if a student does not consume branded drinks or juices, then they are considered to be of the lower class.
It is for this primary reason, he opined, that parents tend to pack sugary drinks for their children, which are often unhealthy and can contribute to NCDs.
“Many Jamaicans feel that if they drink water with their meal, they’re actually participating in an inferior activity. Marketing has been so powerful that if you send your child to school, and they have their lunch with a glass of water while another child is having theirs with a branded sugary drink, then, as far as they are concerned, the other child is better off,” Dr. Tufton noted.
He was speaking at the NCD Prevention and Control Programme’s fifth annual review and capacity-building workshop held at the Mona Visitors’ Lodge in St. Andrew on Thursday (March 8).
Dr. Tufton said that the Ministry, as part of its push against NCDs, and more specifically obesity, will have to preach and recondition the minds of Jamaicans on the virtues of drinking water.
“Jamaican tap water is one of the best in the world, so you don’t have to buy it in that (a packaged) way,” he pointed out.
The Health Minister noted further that the increased use of technology, coupled with inactivity, also places children at risk for NCDs.
“You take a 12-year-old now, and between the video game, the mobile phone and the computer, they don’t want to go outside anymore. They want the dinner to be brought to them or they eat what’s in a plastic bag with a whole heap of preservatives, and that’s a challenge,” he lamented.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), NCDs, including heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and chronic lung disease, are collectively responsible for almost 70 per cent of all deaths worldwide.
Almost three-quarters of all NCD deaths, and 82 per cent of the 16 million people who die prematurely or before reaching 70 years of age, occur in low- and middle-income countries such as Jamaica.
Data from the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) show that approximately 12,773 Jamaicans died from the four major NCDs in 2014.
The Ministry of Health hosted the NCD annual review to assess progress in implementing the National Strategic Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs from 2013 to 2018, and to share best practices for the prevention and control of NCDs in Jamaica.
It was held under the theme ‘Getting to 2030: Together let’s beat NCDs; Where are we now?’.