Increasing urbanization posing health risk to region

The World Health Organization in Geneva reported that children in the Cayman Islands and St Lucia are some of the least active in the world.

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, April 12, 2010 – The price of progress is being charged to the health and well-being of the citizens of the Caribbean according to international observers. PAHO/WHO Resident Representative to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Dr. Gina Watson has stated that urban settings are having an impact on the health of residents and this is of particular concern in this region as Latin America and the Caribbean are the world's most urbanized developing region. Speaking at a recent public health event in Bridgetown, Dr Watson emphasized the need for city planners to develop walking paths and green areas within the city.

“Families in urban areas are much less likely to have access to arable land on which they can plant fruits, vegetables and ground provisions to provide nutritious meals... they are more likely to rely on readibly available fast food' of low-nutritional value. All of these factors contribute to the higher rate of risk factors for chronic diseases,” Dr Watson said as she addressed the 6th Lions and Leo Club of Barbados health fair in the City to mark World Health Day under the theme is "Urbanization and Healthy Living".

Dr Watson’s remarks came just days after a study released by Regina Guthold of the World Health Organization in Geneva reported that children in the Cayman Islands and St Lucia are some of the least active in the world.

In the study, published in The Journal of Pediatrics, Guthold and her team looked at 72,845 13- to 15-year-old schoolchildren from North and South America, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. The children were surveyed between 2003 and 2007.

St. Lucia and the Cayman Islands were found to be the most sedentary nations with 58 percent of boys and 64 percent of girls spending at least three hours a day in sedentary activity.

The researchers defined adequate physical activity as at least an hour of exercise (outside of gym class) at least five days a week. Children who spent three or more hours watching TV, playing computer games, or chatting with friends (aside from time in school or time spent doing homework) were classified as sedentary.

Just one-quarter of the boys and 15 percent of the girls were getting enough exercise by their definition, the researchers found. And a quarter of boys and nearly 30 percent of girls were sedentary and didn't get enough exercise.

Such risks have not escaped the scrutiny of Barbados’ Minister of Health Donville Inniss, who called for health issues to be incorporated fully into urban public policy, to create healthier living conditions, especially for persons living and working in urban settings, as he delivered the opening remarks at the World Health Day event.

The Health Minister said: "Our national aspirations include the desire to continue to develop our physical infrastructure and to improve the social and economic conditions to a standard that will provide an optimum quality of life for all Barbadians. However, as we pursue these goals, our approach to urban development must ensure that health is incorporated more broadly into urban public policy.

"...We are fortunate to live in a region of the world that has amenable climate conditions and we must create the opportunity to take advantage of our outdoor environment to improve our health and well-being."

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Tags: Increasing, health, posing, region, risk, to, urbanization

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