The battle to win the taste buds of our youth has gone into high gear. Our society has reached the point where convenience is being given priority above eating healthy by a modern day Barbadian. Bear in mind the national health budget is over 700 million and per capita ranks as the third highest in the Caribbean.
If we accept that the health of a nation is the wealth of a nation then we should be very concerned about what 2010 research has revealed about the incidence of obesity in our youth population.
- Over 30% in the 9 to10 age group are obese/overweight
- 12% had high blood pressure
One does not have to be a medical practitioner to know that obese individuals are vulnerable to many types of health risks e.g. hypertension and heart disease, respiratory disease and of course the big D (Diabetes). They they are the non-medical issues which have to be managed as well read low esteem, signalization etc.
Parents are responsible for the upbringing of our children. Marketeers also know that purchasing decisions of adults are influenced or in this case manipulated by targeting the message at children. The image above is one example where a popular football school in Barbados that recruits young boys and girls has been able to attract sponsorship from fast food Chefette restaurant and all that comes with it. A visit to many primary schools will also reveal the Chefette brand printed on exercise books, pencils, book covers all done with the objective to keep the Chefette brand top of the young minds.
The fast food experience has become so embedded in decision making that a trip to Chefette restaurant has become threaded in our lifestyle. In recent weeks Barbadians have witnessed ministers of government featured at ribbon cutting ceremonies at the opening of Burger King and Chefette restaurants. What message is our leaders sending? Our leaders publicly support the littering of fast food restaurants across the landscape of Barbados and at the same time struggle with executing policy to promote behavioural change in the citizenry. The BU household is not saying that fast food restaurants are to be blamed solely for the bad food being ingested by our youth. However, the question must be asked what is being done to counter the aggressive messaging of fast food restaurants.
Burger King and Chefette fast food restaurants are headed by Bizzy Williams and the Haloute family. The influence of big business or well off individuals on government will be difficult to counter. Government is in the business of promoting economic activity. Also as political parties contributions to the campaign coffers are welcomed from individuals and businesses like Bizzy and Chefette restaurant.
Is it too late to save improve the health of our children and in the process the wealth of the nation?