A healthier Jamaica truly starts with the youth

Monday, April 02, 2018

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Christianity's Easter message of sacrifice has been a source of inspiration down the ages.

It seems appropriate then that, as the Easter weekend approached, J Wray & Nephew Foundation (JWNF) and Nestle Jamaica launched what is being described as their Nutrition Roll-Out partnership.

As explained in an article published yesterday 3,500 children from seven schools in Kingston, Clarendon, and St Elizabeth are benefiting from 18,000 Nestle cereals and packets of its Nesfruta drink, plus sachets of milk donated by JWNF.

We are told that Kemp's Hill Basic and Gimme-Me-Bit Primary in Clarendon; Seaview Gardens Primary, Seaward Primary and Junior High, Balmagie Primary and St Patrick's Primary School in Kingston; and Appleton Estate Basic School in St Elizabeth are the beneficiaries.

The JWN Foundation's assistance project, under the mantra 'Transforming lives and communities for a better Jamaica', is part of an effort to develop communities surrounding rum company J Wray and Nephew Limited's operations.

The donations were reportedly made on the basis of school population and ensured that all students benefited from an adequate range of nutritional products.

Principal of Balmagie Primary, Ms Vinette Simms, while saying thanks, perhaps best captured the essence of the gesture, said: “It's very good when somebody can come and invest in the inner city... because most times people (donors) are attracted to people who can return the favour. But these children might not be able to return the favour, but what will eventually happen is, when you invest in these children, you're actually investing in the future — and I consider those persons as visionaries,” she said.

We expect that the gesture by JWNF is in line with the Government's drive to reduce lifestyle diseases over the short, medium and long term. As part of that drive, the Health Ministry, led by the energetic Dr Christopher Tufton, is urging greater care in terms of children's nutrition and in particular reduction in their sugar intake.

Information from the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that non-communicable ailments, including heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and chronic lung illnesses, are collectively responsible for almost 70 per cent of all deaths worldwide.

Poor nutrition during childhood obviously aggravates the situation.

The Planning Institute of Jamaica's Economic and Social Survey 2016 tells us that between 2010 and 2014 deaths of Jamaicans over five years old from major non-communicable diseases increased by 23.5 per cent to 12,773 from 10,344. Further, the probability of dying between 30 and 70 years old from one of the main non-communicable diseases is 17.8 per cent.

“As a result, Jamaica is not on track to meet the WHO voluntary target of reducing premature mortality by 25 per cent by 2025,” revealed the survey.

Jamaica's health sector leaders say the growing prevalence of non-communicable diseases has sent health care costs through the roof. It's against all that backdrop private sector projects aimed at improving children's nutrition must be viewed.

Now is the time for all Jamaica to take up the slack in pursuit of a healthier population.

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