NASSAU, The Bahamas — Health officials at the Bahamas Primary Health Care Training Centre, located at the Fox Hill Clinic, will launch a one thousand pound challenge to battle growing CNCDs within the Fox Hill Community beginning mid-January, 2009 in a bid to fight the growing number of persons who are either obese or overweight.

Dr. Candice Cargill, Coordinator of the Centre said the challenge will assist officials at the healthcare facility in accomplishing two goals by firstly helping to reduce the number of obese and/or overweight persons within the community, while also assisting in reducing some of the complications related to chronic, non-communicable diseases (CNCDs) such as diabetes and hypertension that can result from being obese and/or overweight.

“I think everybody has heard by now that the Bahamian society is an obese society and so we are going to use this challenge to help reduce the number of obese or overweight persons in the community in the first instance, while also helping to reduce some of the complications and health problems that are caused as a result of obesity,” Dr. Cargill said.

“The 1,000 pound challenge will allow us to provide a holistic approach to healthier living to the residents of the Fox Hill Community through a variety of education and awareness programmes, while helping to reduce the number of persons reporting with chronic, non-communicable diseases.”

Dr. Cargill said chronic, non-communicable diseases “have taken over” from infectious diseases as the leading cause of morbidity in The Bahamas. She said that because of poor lifestyles and bad choices insofar as healthy living and eating is concerned, more and more Bahamians are being faced with multiple forms of CNCDs.

“We have a very serious problem with CNCDs in this country and not just from persons having one CNCD, but rather two or three of them, as persons are presenting with hypertension along diabetes and high cholesterol which are serious causes of morbidity and mortality here in the country,” Dr. Cargill said.

“We are not seeing as many amputations as we once did insofar as diabetes is concerned,” Dr. Cargill said, “but we are seeing more persons who progress into heart failure as a result of it.”

Dr. Cargill said the three-month campaign will allow officials at the centre to educate residents of the community of the problems associated with chronic, non-communicable diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol which she said are three of the “main culprits that are associated with obesity and being overweight.”

“In some cases if you can get those persons who are already hypertensive and diabetic to reduce their weight, it can have the effect of helping them to be able to reduce the amount of medications they are on for their chronic, non-communicable diseases or in some cases, when persons have been on a strict diet and they adhere to their exercise programme and lose weight, we can actually get them off their medications completely,” Dr. Cargill said.

Dr. Cargill said the challenge will also allow officials to address those persons who are pre or borderline diabetics and hypertensive. She said these persons, if they follow good, healthy diet and exercise programmes, they can prevent themselves from “crossing the line into either of those chronic diseases”.

“And the same thing goes for high cholesterol because even though we know that some of it is genetic, a lot of it is as a result of the foods that people eat. For example, Bahamians love to eat lots of butter on everything which is bad for them. So if we can get people to try and create a lifestyle for themselves where they understand that they do not need to put butter on their grits, but rather use the gravy from the mackerel or tuna they are having with the grits, that is enough.

“The Challenge will hopefully get them to begin implementing some of the healthy lifestyle choices that we have mapped out for them so that it becomes an everyday activity. Once that occurs, then they will begin to see improvements not only insofar as weight reduction is concerned, but also healthier lives,” Dr. Cargill added.

Dr. Cargill said the Challenge will also focus on getting participants to reduce their intake products such as sodas and ketchup, which she said both contribute to weight gain.

“If persons would stop drinking sodas everyday and stop using ketchup – which has so much sugar – on their food every time they eat; if they do these two things alone for a three to six month period, they will be able to see a reduction in their weight,” Dr. Cargill said.

“A lot of times when people think about their health or about weight loss, they think in terms of this grand scale where they have to do so many things in order to lose the weight. However, if they do it moderately, but consistently so that it becomes a part of them, they will see the weight just drop away.”

Dr. Cargill said participants will be weighed on a monthly basis after the initial weigh-in in order to “see how the weight is being reduced.” Each participant will be presented with a Pass Book to track their progress. Officials at the facility have arranged discounted fees at Fantasy Gym for participants once they present their Pass Book, so that they will be able to combine diet and exercise into their daily routine.

“We will also have a nutritionist who will educate participants on the foods they should and should not eat and we will be here to help guide them through the challenge,” Dr. Cargill added.