‘My Health Plate’ initiative to help combat childhood obesity
BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – The Ministry of Health has launched a “Healthy Kidney, Better Life – My Healthy Plate” initiative, which has been used in the United States with great success to help children at a young age to have the information on healthy eating and to translate that information into positive behaviour changes throughout their teenage years and adulthood.
At an opening ceremony held for the initiative at the St. Kitts Eco Park July 6, Minister of State with responsibility for Health the Honourable Wendy Phipps spoke to a group of primary school children from throughout the federation on the importance of healthy eating.
“It’s a partnership that if we want a healthier nation and a wealthier nation, in how we look after ourselves, we have to make health care a priority,” said Minister Phipps, while appealing to the children present that making healthy choices now can save them and their families from medical expenses in the future.
Minister of Health the Hon. Eugene Hamilton encouraged the children to start backyard gardens to promote healthy eating at home. He also highlighted to them the importance of taking care of their kidneys to avoid the exorbitant medical cost that is associated with failing kidneys.
“It is important therefore for you to take care of the kidneys by making sure you pay attention to what you eat and what you drink,” he said. “To avoid having to spend the money you don’t have, pay attention to what you put in your bodies so that your kidneys won’t go bad.”
He also said that the Ministry of Health is working hand in hand with the Ministry of Agriculture to promote healthy eating, as well as local consumption of food as opposed to buying and eating imported foods.
“The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture both desire that you eat healthily to avoid getting sick,” he said. “The message, therefore, today is for you to appreciate what you grow locally from the backyard to the plate and then to your stomach.”
Nutrition Surveillance Coordinator in the Ministry of Health Latoya Matthew-Duncan said that in the last 20 to 30 years, there has been a significant increase in childhood obesity and cited a global school survey conducted in 2011 stating that “among students ages 13 – 15 in St. Kitts and Nevis, it revealed that 47 percent of students were overweight.” She said that this was the reasoning behind the adaptation of the “My Healthy Plate,” with the goal of helping children to make better and informed decisions on healthy eating.