By Llonella Gilbert
NASSAU, Bahamas – Minister of Education, Youth, Sports and Culture, the Hon. Carl Bethel encouraged students of the Uriah McPhee primary school to spend their lunch money on healthy balanced meals rather than fizzy sodas and candy.
During a World Diabetes Day 2007 special school assembly Wednesday, Mr. Bethel also implored vendors to stop selling candy and fizzy sodas outside school campuses as they are endangering the health of the students.
He pointed out that while he does not want to prevent anyone from making a living, healthier food must be the order of the day. Fizzy drinks are being banned from government primary schools in order to ensure that students enjoy balanced meals while at school.
“We want children to be able to get water and fruit juices in government primary schools. We urge the private sector to follow suit,” Minister Bethel said. “We at the Ministry of Education are also working with Ministry of Health dietitians to design a standardized lunch menu that will be balanced and nutritious.”
Mr. Bethel noted that wherever possible there will be a decrease in greasy, fried foods and an unbalanced menu with too much carbohydrates and not enough fruits and salads.
“Perhaps at no other time in the history of the mankind have our children been more endangered,” Mr. Bethel stressed. “Children today are being threatened by HIV, AIDS, violence, drug abuse, malnutrition, obesity and diseases including diabetes.”
He cited worldwide statistics which reveal that more than 240 million people are living with diabetes. This number is expected to grow to 380 million within 20 years.
“It is estimated that approximately 10 per cent of the Bahamian population is living with diabetes, with the prevalence being higher among females than males,” Minister Bethel added.
Bahamians, he said, are becoming increasingly aware of lifestyle practices that increase the chance of developing a Chronic Non Communicable Disease such as diabetes.
These include having an unhealthy diet with a low intake of fruits and vegetables, consuming foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt, and reducing levels of physical activity or recreation.
Mr. Bethel told the students that everyone has an important role to play in reducing the level of obesity in the country and that they are viewed as part of the solution to improve their overall health and wellbeing.
“Students, your presence today and your active participation in this special assembly should be a constant reminder of the role you can play to promote optimal health among your friend and peers.
“I encourage you to spread the message that lifestyle diseases are preventable and people can remain healthy for longer periods by following an optimal diet, maintaining regular physical activity and refraining from drugs,” he said.