Gov’t now moving to take on salt and trans fat

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MINISTER of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton yesterday implored Jamaicans to not only focus on a reduction in salt and sugar consumption but that they should also pay keen attention to all the lifestyle practices that may possibly lead to non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

Dr Tufton was addressing yesterday’s opening of the Caribbean Public Health Agency’s (CARPHA) regional stakeholders meeting on strategies to reduce salt consumption for the prevention and control of NCDs, held at the E Nigel Harris Council Room, The University of the West Indies’ (UWI) Regional Headquarters Conference Centre, Mona Road, St Andrew.

Dr Tufton noted that it is vital to have these discussions and to confront the menace of NCDs.

“It’s really about balance, and there are a number of things we must do as Caribbean people to create that critical balance. Sugar is one aspect we have taken on, and then there is tobacco, which is the big no-no in the room,” he said.

He added that soon there will be discussions about trans fat and its effects.

“I believe you are going to hear about trans fats as a baseline study here in Jamaica, and we are going to be looking at the extent to which trans fats are used.

“Firstly, we are going to establish how much of it is here, and the extent of its usage, because it is scientifically proven that it is a huge contributor to the scourge of NCDs which is plaguing the population. And, of course, there is alcohol,” Tufton said, which caused laughter in the room.

The minister admitted that a number of people like alcohol and even he can attest to enjoying a drink or two.

However, he noted that, although it is liked by many, “it also speaks to the critical need to establish balance”.

“How does one relate to an environment where they can enjoy the best things in life but do so in a way that gives them quality of life and longevity of life?”

“Alcohol has to be in the line-up (of the discussions), because excessive consumption of alcohol does contribute to a number of ailments that ultimately cause or enhance our demise,” he said.

Dr Tufton also noted that a broad spectrum of things (lifestyle practices) will be examined, as these practices are a key part of the Caribbean people and have contributed to the NCD epidemic that is currently being faced.

Said the minister: “We are seeing increasing cases of it (NCDs); there are premature illnesses, and obesity levels are growing each day from the lowest age cohort in our school systems, based on the surveys that we have done through the entire population. We have to do something about this,” Dr Tufton said.

He also explained that one way to tackle the issue is by conducting research so that when points are made, they “stand firm”.

“When we speak, no one should say our results are based on a one experience here and there. It must be based on the research and data that is scientific, has a method, can be tested, tried and proven. And so, when we speak, it is with authority on the issue.

“Because, let’s face it, there will be a pushback from some. Some people don’t like change, especially when that change brings some uncertainty, but we are going to push back hard too,” the minister said.

— Shanae Stewart

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