The implementation of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) grant funded project to strengthen civil society organizations’ (CSOs’) contribution to childhood obesity prevention continued with a capacity building workshop in Nassau, The Bahamas, 22-24 January 2018.
The workshop was hosted by the Cancer Society of The Bahamas (CSOB), one of the five CSOs participating in the project. Thirty-four participants convened at the CSOB’s office in Nassau, and included CSOB volunteers; representatives from the Ministry of Health’s Department of Public Health and Nutrition Department; members of the Healthy Bahamas Coalition, a multisectoral entity that performs the functions of a national non-communicable diseases (NCDs) commission; physicians from the Princess Margaret Hospital and private practice; nurses and teachers working in the public and private school systems; lecturers and medical students from the University of the West Indies; and physical fitness instructors. While most of the participants were based in Nassau, New Providence, some participants travelled from Grand Bahama and Abaco to participate in the workshop.
Most of the discussions and interactions centered on issues related to childhood prevention and the development of a draft CSOB Action Plan targeting advocacy for a national policy to ban sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) in and around schools. The Ministry of Health has already produced a draft SSB Policy Brief, which will facilitate the development and implementation of the CSOB’s advocacy strategies.
The Minister of Health, the Honourable Dr. Duane Sands, visited the workshop on the second day, and energized the participants with his factual, sometimes humorous account of the burden of obesity in The Bahamas. He noted that the country could not afford NCDs and childhood obesity, and highlighted the importance of taking steps to deal with cultural aspects of eating and physical activity, as well as perceptions of overweight and obesity. He suggested that the group of participants could become a nidus for a movement to tackle the problem and requested a summary of the actions being taken.
The media also visited the workshop on the second day and conducted interviews with Dr. Homer Bloomfield, CSOB Board Member; Dr. Williamson Chea, CSOB President; Dr. Christine Chin, Obesity Specialist and Coordinator of the CSOB project; and Dr. Beverley Barnett, HCC Consultant and workshop facilitator. The interviews resulted in the workshop being highlighted on a television broadcast that evening.
The participants’ commitment, enthusiasm, and engagement were evident throughout the workshop, and their evaluation indicated satisfaction with the interactive approach used to build their capacity in key areas related to the development and implementation of the CSOB Action Plan. Dr. Chea presented the participants with Certificates of Participation from the CSOB, and committed to continue the momentum and participation generated through the workshop to advocate for national policy aimed at decreasing children’s SSB intake and contributing to childhood obesity prevention.
The HCC will continue to work with its member organizations, governments, and partners to address this and other critical issues related to NCD prevention and control.