The Ministry of Health and Wellness is fast-tracking its response to the scourge of non-communicable diseases, NCDs, with the rollout of its newest health education campaign, focused on nutrition. “Read It Before You Eat It”, is the slogan for the Nutrition Facts Panel’s campaign. The campaign calls on Jamaicans to read food labels to make better food choices.
The message was reinforced at a launch event hosted at the Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel in St. Andrew.
The Nutrition Facts Panel provides essential information on a packaged food item, including serving sizes, calories, nutrients and percentage daily value for intake.
“We are championing a cause that will save thousands of lives. We are all too familiar with statistics that should that many Jamaicans do not exercise, but what is even worse is that we do not make healthy choices when it comes to the food we eat,” said Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton.
The education campaign aims to increase awareness of nutrition facts panels (food labels) among Jamaicans and empower the populace to correctly interpret and apply the knowledge in daily dietary choices.
“What we consider as ‘healthy’ is often alarmingly high in salt, sugar and trans-fat. Ladies and gentlemen, we are doing more harm than good to our bodies by our consumption habits and overall poor healthy lifestyle,” the Minister added.
“What we have on our hands is a health emergency of epidemic proportions. What is more, non-communicable diseases carry with them a domino effect of ill-health, poor quality of life, economic impact and pressure on the public health system to treat what is preventable,” underscored Dr Simone Spence, Director of the Health Promotion and Protection Branch.
Preliminary findings of the recent Baseline Evaluation Survey for Nutrition Facts Panel Education Campaign (Mundy et al., 2023) show that while 70% of Jamaicans had a general awareness of nutrition facts panels, and 69% of the respondents expressed a positive attitude towards them, only 30% were able to interpret and apply the information on them accurately.
At the same time, chronic non-communicable diseases continue to surge in Jamaica, with more than half of the population categorised as either pre-obese or obese (Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey III, 2016-2017). Improved nutrition can mitigate the prevalence of chronic non-communicable diseases and other health risk factors among Jamaicans.
The Nutrition Facts Panel Media Campaign is a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Health and Wellness, the Heart Foundation of Jamaica, the National Health Fund (NHF), and the Jamaica Association of Professionals in Nutrition and Dietetics (JAPINAD).
The best practice is always to read the food labels on any store-bought food.