Minister of Health Dr. the Hon. Hubert Minnis has called on Bahamians to fight against the “epidemic of obesity”, which is a growing problem among the nation’s youth.

He was addressing the Links Youth Health Forum held Saturday, June 28, at the National Centre for the Performing Arts on Shirley Street, under the theme, “Creating a Healthy Culture Among Young Bahamians”.

The event, which attracted youngsters ages five to 17, was designed to promote good health among children and create an awareness of the dangers of juvenile obesity.

Medical statistics show that 65 percent of the Bahamian population is considered obese or overweight. This has a great impact upon chronic non-communicable diseases like diabetes and hypertension.

“In order to live a healthy and better life we must stop this epidemic, obesity,” Dr. Minnis said.

Making the correlation between healthy lifestyles and achieving good grades, Dr Minnis said, “It is a known fact that with poor health you cannot study, you cannot concentrate, you are subjected to many absent days from school, thus placing extra burden upon your families.”

He said this lifestyle forces mothers to take days off from work to remain at home with their children, and if they are hospitalised, extra financial burdens are placed upon families.

“With poor health comes poor education, lower IQ, lower job performance, more disadvantaged jobs and thus less job satisfaction and lower pay, increased stress level and other medical conditions, and eventually a less management position,” Dr Minnis said. He added that this eventually leads to dishonesty and criminal behaviour.

He encouraged his young audience to eat a proper diet, which must consist of fruits and vegetables at home and at school.

“Many cannot afford these fruits and vegetables; however, the Government has removed the customs duty from certain fruits and vegetables. This is an attempt to ensure that you, our people, our future, can truly be prepared for tomorrow,” Dr. Minnis said.

He further advised that oats, another duty free item, has been shown to decrease cholesterol, thus protecting the heart and eventually decreasing the possibility of heart attacks.

Dr. Minnis also said exercise can be incorporated into fun, like participating in Junkanoo. He told the youngsters they could shake the cowbells, beat drums, free dance, participate in choreographic dancing or carry the banner.

“The Government is ensuring that more green space is available for you to exercise and walk. I see more women walking than men, and it is important to note that women also live longer than men,” Dr Minnis said.

He also said exercise and proper diet decreases the incidence of obesity, and that overweight people are less fertile. Pregnancy, he added, is more complicated in obese individuals.

“We must fight this epidemic of obesity, we must do our part in improving our grade average of ‘D’, we must do our part in ensuring that we receive the best jobs in this Bahamas,” Dr. Minis said.