PRESS RELEASE: Adults must help children avoid sugary drinks at home and at school

On  World  Obesity  Day,  the  Heart  Foundation  of  Jamaica  (HFJ),  the  Ministry  of  Health (MOH)  are  launching  a  new  phase  of  the  media  campaign  calling  for  action  to  reduce children’s consumption of sugary drinks. Entitled “Are Your Children Drinking Themselves Sick?,”  this  campaign  shows  the  negative  effects  of  sugary  drinks  on  physical  and  dental health, from childhood into adulthood, and encourages Jamaicans to reduce consumption of sugary drinks at home and school.    “Safeguarding the health of our population starts with our children” said Jamaica’s Minister of Health, Dr. Christopher Tufton. “We can help lower the number of obese adults suffering ill-health and premature death by preventing children from becoming overweight and obese. The  Health  Ministry  is  collaborating  with  Ministry  of  Education  to  establish  a  School Nutrition Policy that will facilitate the development of healthy eating and lifestyle choices by children and improvements in the nutritional education of children and their families.”  Global  health  organizations  like  the  World  Health  Organization,  PAHO,  World  Cancer Research  Fund,  the  World  Dental  Association  and  International  Diabetes  Federation,  have warned  that  excess  sugar  consumption  could  bring  on  obesity  which  increases  the  risk  of developing non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, some forms of cancers, tooth decay and type 2 diabetes.   Three out of 10 children in Jamaica are either overweight or obese and this number is rising dramatically.  Childhood  obesity  in  Jamaica  has  increased  by  nearly  64%  in  seven  years, according to The Global School-based Student Health Survey (2017). This will have serious impacts on the future health and economic development in Jamaica. Estimates from WHO and UNDP  found  that  Jamaica’s  economy  will  lose  more  than  77.1  billion  Jamaican  Dollars between 2017 to 2032 due to costs of cardiovascular and diabetes alone. This underscores the importance of these public awareness campaigns.   “This campaign has been prompted by increasing rates of childhood obesity and tooth decay in Jamaica,” said Deborah Chen, Executive Director of the Heart Foundation of Jamaica. “The science is clear and demonstrates a direct link between excess sugar consumption and obesity and obesity-related diseases like diabetes. Jamaicans cannot afford to wait longer and we need to  have  serious  discussions  about  government  solutions  to  stop  Jamaica’s  children  from drinking themselves sick.” 

A  recent  survey  found  that  most  Jamaicans  (87%)  agree  that  sugary  drinks  are  a  major contributor to obesity and 78% are concerned about their impact on child health. More than half  of  parents  (54%)  said  their  children  consume  most  of  their  intake  of  sugary  drinks  at school and more than three-quarters agree that unhealthy foods and drinks should not be sold in schools. 

  As a place where children spend the majority of their days, we must ensure that schools are health-promoting environments and that children adopt healthy behaviours during the school day. The addition of Jamaica Moves in schools, the School Nutrition Policy and restriction of certain sugary drinks in schools effective January 2019 can make a difference in stemming rates of childhood obesity in our country.    

The campaign ad for “Are Your Children Drinking Themselves Sick?” shows a child consuming sugary drinks from infancy to adulthood. He develops tooth decay during his teenage years and as an adult is shown to be suffering from type 2 diabetes. This reflects the reality of many Jamaicans: the newly released Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey (JHLS) 2016/2017, stated that the overall prevalence of diabetes was 12% among persons 15 and over.  Among persons 15-74 years, the prevalence of diabetes was approximately 10%, and this compares to 7.8% among the same age group in JHLS11, 2007/2008.    The “Are Your Children Drinking Themselves Sick?” will run on TV, radio, in newspapers, on social media and on  billboards.  Jamaicans  are  encouraged  to  share  messages  about  the  campaign  on  social  media  using  the hashtags:  #RejectToothDecay,  #AreYourChildrenDrinkingThemselvesSick  and  #RaiseHealthyChildren.  They can  retweet  posts  or  comment  on  posts  from  the  Instagram  or  Facebook  pages  of  @heartfoundationja, @themohgovjm and @jamaica_moves.  This campaign was inspired by the Play Every Day campaign, developed by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, and follows the campaign “Are you drinking yourself sick?” which informed people about the amount of sugar present in sugary drinks such as sodas and fruit juices and highlighted the negative health impacts of consuming sugary drinks.  Further information and stills from the campaign are available upon request. 


About the Heart Foundation of Jamaica 

The Heart Foundation of Jamaica (HFJ) was formed, as a non-governmental organization (NGO) by the Lions Club of Kingston, in 1971. The Foundation is a member of the InterAmerican Heart Foundation, the Framework Convention  Alliance,  the  Healthy  Caribbean  Coalition  and  the  World  Heart  Federation  and  is  involved  in prevention  programmes  for  cardiovascular  disease.    In  September  2018,  the  Heart  Foundation  of  Jamaica commenced its Global Health Advocacy Project (GHAP).  The project supports obesity prevention through mass media campaigns for increased awareness of the harms of sugar sweetened beverages (SSB) and promotion of policy change.