Columns

When the sugar too sweet

Barbara
Gloudon

Friday, June 08, 2018

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Member of Parliament Dr Christopher Tufton, minister of health, is not a “joke man” when he says that schoolchildren have to give up on the sweet drinks and do the right thing — drink nice, fresh water, and keep their young bodies healthy and pure, yuh nuh!

All right, I am not joking out the zeal of a politician who seems to like to go home at the end of the day having achieved what he has set out to do. To that effect, Dr Tufton has become one who is always on the move; facing one challenge after the other.

In his recent presentation during the sectoral debate Dr Tufton announced plans to have schools and sellers who do business in and around schools refrain from the selling of sugar-sweetened drinks in the continued attempt to reduce the levels of obesity and lifestyle-related diseases, which have “taken a set” on our people. It is never too early to get persons to listen to what is being said about making health choices.

It is bad enough when children find themselves suffering like 'big people' too. It's not old people alone who have to fight illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension and cancer brought on by what we eat, drink and how we live our lives in stressful times.

Dr Tufton's concern is to draw the attention of people of all ages and stages to recognise the problem and seek out good health. The current enemy is “sweet drinks”, often found in school canteens. In his presentation to Parliament, Dr Tufton quoted findings from a report that: “Approximately 70 per cent of Jamaican children consume one or more sugar-sweetened beverage per day and 77 per cent of our adults also consume one or more sugar-sweetened beverages per day… Consumption of one or more servings of sugar-sweetened beverages per day is associated with a 26 per cent greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.”

Diabetes is a serious-serious ting, it's not just “a likkle sugar”, as some people say. The list of complications which diabetes can cause is a long one. The question is, how will this new plan work? Students love their sweet drink. We will have to continue talking to them about why, despite their young age, they should be careful about what they consume and what are the better options.

The new regulations will not apply to fresh milk or juices, which have no added sugar. One difficulty is, real-real juice is more expensive than the sugar/syrup-based drinks, which are attractive because of the lower price. Students and families worry about the price of everything nowadays. The question has been raised: How will the school authorities make sure that choosing healthier options isn't an additional strain on the pocket? Drinking water has a cost, whether in a bottle or from the pipe. Will the Ministry of Education accept the idea that water dispensers may have to be placed in schools? Will schools and parents work with the new plan?

The rules and regulations about healthier drinks for students and others in the schools are said to be coming in the new year. Let's hope this is time enough to work out the details. It should be obvious that the most effective accomplishment of the no-sweet-drinks-for-young-people will be improved health, not just for young people alone but the wider society.

Child vs child?

Broken hearts watched with pain and anguish the suffering of parents and guardians who are dealing with 'more than they can bear'. A report of the shock and grief caused by the murder of a nine-year-old girl in Westmoreland has left many speechless. A young boy, aged 13 years, has been implicated. Meanwhile, the law is taking its course of seeking to find how a young child could have come to such an end.

The pain of the mothers of the unfortunate young children — both the victim and the possible perpetrator — will haunt the community. How did we get to this point at which children are caught up in both sides of the mayhem that has been plaguing our communities? How long will this go on? How long?

To Russia, with love?

Football teams and their supporters are getting ready to head to the other side of the world for the upcoming World Cup tournament. This should be some new adventure. How many Caribbean people know how to speak Russian? There were Jamaicans who travelled to Russia to study back in the 70s when politics and ideology had us heading in different directions.

A crazy friend also reminded me of more recent days when there was a season when Russian “pretty girls” performed at a certain nightclub in town. I'm not sure what has happened to the visiting ladies since the club has been shuttered, but a news carrier passed on the message that at least one of the dancers had got a husband here! True? You might know more than me.

From the ashes

Sending a thought to my friends who sell in the Papine market which was badly burnt in a fire last week. Many of the vendors lost everything they had. Promises of assistance have reportedly come from the mayor and the Member of Parliament. It is said that plans to upgrade the market will be fast-tracked in order to get things put back in order. Right now there are some large holes in the roof, and rain nuh 'fraid a nobody. Let us hope it won't take too long for the repairs to be effected.

In the meantime, my friends have swept away the ashes and are trying to restock so that their lives can go on, even if the setting is difficult. It has been rough, but as old-time people say: Jamaican people a cunny bud; hard bud fi dead.

Barbara Gloudon is a journalist, playwright and commentator. Send comments to the Observer or gloudonb@yahoo.com.

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