Weighing the Impact of COVID-19: Nutrition, Overweight, Obesity and NCDs

by HCC

The fourth webinar of our special COVID-19 and NCDs in the Caribbean series: Weighing the Impact of COVID-19: Nutrition, Overweight, Obesity and NCDs, a roundtable discussion, took place on August 27th 2020 focusing on emerging trends in diet, overweight and obesity among adults and children and resulting short- and longer-term clinical outcomes. Through a roundtable format, a diverse panel of physicians, researchers and advocates from across the region shared personal experiences and discussed individual and population level strategies to encourage improved nutrition and management of diet-related NCDs during and after the pandemic.

BACKGROUND

On March 27th 2020, the HCC published an Open Letter to CARICOM Heads calling for ‘urgent action to protect those living with NCDs from COVID-19.  On March 31st, 2020, the HCC released the HCC COVID-19 Advocacy and Communication Strategy to guide HCC advocacy efforts and communication during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The strategy has five primary objectives: increase knowledge about COVID-19 and NCDs; promote access to, and consumption of, healthy foods; promote access to essential medicines and treatments for people living with NCDs (PLWNCDs; promote good mental and physical health; and engage young people as key players in the COVID-19 response. The strategy aims to contribute to universal health and universal health coverage (UH/UHC) and reduction of inequities, in support of achieving the sustainable development goals, specifically the prevention, treatment and promotion of mental health and wellbeing (target 3.4).

The webinar series fulfils two of the four strategies identified to deliver on the objectives of the HCC COVID-19 Communication Strategy: information dissemination and strengthening of civil society organisation (CSO) communication networks for information and experience sharing. The webinars will target a number of stakeholder groups, foremost of which are HCC CSO member organisations and PLWNCDs. Secondary target groups include regional policymakers and technical personnel across various ministries (including health, education, finance, trade etc.), health care providers, members of academia, national, regional and international partners, the general public including students and the private sector.

The webinar series aims to build advocacy capacity for the promotion of initiatives and policies that support the long-term health of all, particularly vulnerable persons, PLWNCDs and children and young people. The webinars will leverage the expertise of diverse stakeholders and partners including civil society actors, technical officers, academics, health care practitioners, and youth to bring awareness to the varied and complex dimensions of COVID-19 and NCDs in the Caribbean in order to guide the multisectoral approach needed to pave the way forward. They will showcase the experiences and lessons learned thus far and highlight good practices in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of these efforts. Current initiatives, solutions and policy recommendations will be discussed to ensure that we respond effectively to the pandemic and “build back better” by strengthening our whole-of-society response in shaping the COVID-19 health legacy.

WEBINAR 4: WEIGHING THE IMPACT OF COVID-19: NUTRITION, OVERWEIGHT, OBESITY AND NCDS

The objective of this webinar: “Weighing the Impact of COVID-19: Nutrition, Overweight, Obesity and NCDs” was to reflect on the nutrition environment over the course of the pandemic and the resulting direct and indirect impacts on health; and discuss individual and population level strategies to encourage improved nutrition and management of diet-related NCDs during and after the pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has raised fundamental food insecurity questions and concerns in the Caribbean. As communities adjusted to protracted periods of lockdown, resulting in widespread reduction and loss of incomes, it is likely that diets shifted to consumption of low cost processed, non-perishable foods. The food and beverage industry also took advantage of the critical shortages of food among the most vulnerable by intensifying and diversifying their marketing strategies under the guise of corporate social philanthropy. The industry has continued to donate food items to these vulnerable populations which include people living with NCDs and children. Unfortunately, food donations and marketing campaigns have been dominated by ultra-processed products high in fats, sugars and salts (HFSS).

Poor access to nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables, coupled with overconsumption of energy-dense, nutrient-poor fast foods and ultra-processed foods, is likely to exacerbate an already urgent situation in Caribbean region where one in three children are obese or overweight and up to two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese. The mental health impacts of the pandemic have also triggered behavioural and physiological changes which may be contributing to weight gain. Overweight and obesity threaten to compromise already weakened immune systems and place PLWNCDs at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 and increasing the likelihood of poor health outcomes.

Physicians and nutritionists across the region are raising concerns as they begin to see emerging patterns of weight gain and other concerning symptoms amongst adult and paediatric patients. Patients, dealing with pandemic-induced anxiety and COVID-related changes in diet and exercise, have watched their waistlines expand. Parents and school administrators have also reported weight gain among children likely driven by unhealthy diets, stress and limited physical activity.  With coronavirus likely to be an integral part of our collective foreseeable future, health care providers and policymakers will need to explore individual and community-level interventions as well as national policies to support healthy diets.

KEY THEMES

Through a combination of presentations and discussion, panellists explored the following key themes over the course of the webinar:

  1. COVID and Obesity
  2. Trends in BMI among paediatric and adult patients during the pandemic.
  3. Factors contributing to pandemic weight gain in children and adults.
  4. The role of the food and beverage industry in the obesity epidemic – prior to and during COVID-19.
  5. Implications of weight gain among children and adults on COVID and NCD risk.
  6. Moving forward: the importance of nutrition equity and strategies to achieve this at the individual, community, institutional and national levels; strategies to maintain/ reduce BMI at the individual level; policies to tackle overweight and obesity at the national level.

Panellists/Presenters

Weighing the Impact of COVID-19: Nutrition, Overweight, Obesity and NCDs

Ms. Zanique Edwards
Young person living with type 1 Diabetes

Dr. Suzanne Soares
Clinical Nutritionist. CAIHR

Weighing the Impact of COVID-19: Nutrition, Overweight, Obesity and NCDs

Professor Anne St. John
Consultant Paediatrician, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, UWI, Cave Hill, Barbados, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Barbados

Weighing the Impact of COVID-19: Nutrition, Overweight, Obesity and NCDs

Dr. Shivon Belle-Jarvis
Paediatrician, Head Paediatric Department, Mount St John’s Medical Centre, Antigua

Nutrition, Overweight, Obesity and NCDs

Dr. Tanya Beaubrun
Family Physician

COVID-19: Nutrition, Overweight, Obesity and NCDs

Dr. Elisa Prieto
Caribbean Subregional NCD and Mental Health Advisor, PAHO

Opening and Closing Remarks: Sir Trevor Hassell, President, HCC.

Moderator: Maisha Hutton, Executive Director, HCC.

Presentations:

  • Zaniques TestimonyMs. Zanique Edwards read/download
  • Covid-19 & Obesity Implications for diet and nutrition in the CaribbeanDr. Suzanne Soares Wynter read/download
  • Emerging Trends in Overweight and Obesity in BarbadosProf. Anne St. John read/download
  • Weighing the Impact of COVID-19: Nutrition Overweight Obesity and NCDsDr. Tanya Beaubrun read/download
  • Weighed In The Balance and Found WantingDr. Shivon Belle-Jarvis read/download
  • Weighing the Impact of COVID-19: Nutrition Overweight Obesity and NCDsElisa Prieto Lara read/download

See the promotional flyer here.


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Civil Society Perspectives on COVID-19 and NCDs in the CaribbeanThe objective of the first webinar: Civil Society Perspectives on COVID-19 and NCDs in the Caribbean was to provide a platform for Caribbean CSO leadership to share and showcase their experiences, challenges, successes and lessons learned in responding to COVID-19 and planning for the future beyond COVID-19. Read moreWEBINAR 2: THE FUTURE TALKS: COVID-19 AND NCDS IN THE CARIBBEAN


WEBINAR 2: THE FUTURE TALKS: COVID-19 AND NCDS IN THE CARIBBEAN

THE FUTURE TALKS: COVID-19 AND NCDS IN THE CARIBBEANThe objective of the second webinar: THE FUTURE TALKS: COVID-19 AND NCDS IN THE CARIBBEAN was to highlight the experiences youth face during COVID, including those living with NCDs. The webinar also served as a platform to amplify the youth’s perspective on the monumental change needed moving forward to protect PLWNCDs and lessen the burden for future generations. Read more


WEBINAR 3: THE FUTURE TALKS: COVID-19 AND NCDS IN THE CARIBBEAN – THE LEGACY

The Future Talks”: COVID AND NCDs in the CARIBBEAN - THE LEGACYThe objective of the third webinar: “The Future Talks”: COVID AND NCDs in the CARIBBEAN – THE LEGACY was to gain insight from youth experts who will present their professional and personal perspectives on how the region’s health systems can “build back better” from the COVID experience. Read more

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