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February 28th


HCC Calls on Caricom Heads of State and Government to Take a Closer Look at Processed Food Imports as Part of an Ambitious Plan to Reduce Food Import Bill by 25% in the Next 5 Years



February 28, 2019

Dear Honourable CARICOM Heads of State and Government,

The Healthy Caribbean Coalition noted with great interest recent comments in a press briefing following the 31st CARICOM Inter-Sessional Meeting of Heads of State and Government (HOSG) held in Barbados from February 18-19, 2020. The Honourable Mia Amor Mottley, CARICOM Chairman and Prime Minister of Barbados announced the implementation of a comprehensive plan to reduce the regional food import bill by 25% over the next five years [1]. The plan, developed by the newly formed Regional Private Sector Organization, reflects the ever-increasing concern of CARICOM Heads about the region’s high food import bill which currently stands at around US 5 billion dollars, a 25% increase from the estimated figure in 2015 of 4 billion dollars [8],[2]. A 2015 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) revealed that all but 3 CARICOM territories (Belize, Haiti and Guyana) imported more food than they produced, with half of CARICOM member states importing more than 80% of what they consume[2].

One of the most common categories of food imported into the region, contributing significantly to the high import bill, is processed foods, which lead to excessive calorie intake and an increase in overweight and obesity, in turn leading to non-communicable diseases (NCDs)[2],[3]. Processed food refers to foods made by the addition of sugar, salt, oil and other substances to natural foods. Ultra-processed food is further processed to contain additives not typically found in the kitchen such as artificial flavours, sweeteners, thickeners among other things. This includes foods such as packaged snacks, energy drinks and sweetened beverages and pre-prepared meals [4].

According to the FAO, food items high in calories, sugar and sodium accounted for about US 756 million dollars in imports (18% of import bill) while foods high in fats and oils accounted for US 516 million dollars (12% of import bill). Taken together, almost one-third of food imported into the region is energy dense and high in fat, sugar and sodium (HFSS) [2]. Diets consisting largely of processed and ultra-processed foods have been shown to dramatically increase overweight and obesity. Unhealthy diet is in fact one of the major risk factors for NCDs - a category of diseases which is responsible for 8 out of every 10 deaths in the Caribbean and approximately 40% of premature deaths. In this region, NCDs consume 60% of health budgets placing tremendous strain on under resourced health systems.  In 2019 over US 65 million dollars was estimated to have been spent on conditions related to overweight and obesity> [5],[6]. The region’s high food import bill and its high cost of prevention and treatment of NCDs are inextricably linked [7].

As the only regional alliance of civil society organisations working to reduce the death and disability associated with non-communicable diseases (NCDs) we are deeply concerned about the dietary patterns of Caribbean people and we are committed to playing a role in building healthy and sustainable food systems in the region as demonstrated in our recent Civil Society Call to Urgent Action for the Caribbean Region to Accelerate Nutrition Policies for the Creation of Healthy Environments for Caribbean Children. The HCC fully supports PM Mottley’s vision of “a Caribbean that is committed to feeding itself more than it has within recent years.”[8] We applaud CARICOM’s plan to reduce the food import bill by 25% through a strategy that embraces regional agriculture by replacing some imports with regionally produced livestock and crops. We urge the leadership of CARICOM to approach this initiative as a triple duty action which can see co-benefits in health and in fact climate adaptation as well. Our hope is that this innovative plan can provide an entry point for a movement away from imported processed foods in favour of regionally produced healthy agricultural products, ultimately contributing to a reduction in diet-related NCDs their corresponding health care costs. The HCC and our 100+ regional members, and our national, regional and global partners with broad expertise, stand ready to provide support and guidance if desired. The HCC looks forward to a healthier and more food secure Caribbean. “Eat healthy. Eat Caribbean” - Sir Trevor Hassell, 2018.

- Signed by The Board of Directors of the Healthy Caribbean Coalition
Read/Download the Open Letter
[1] Mounsey, C. Comprehensive initiative to slash food import bill. Barbados Today. 2020 Feb 20. Available at:
[2] FAO. State of Food Insecurity in the CARICOM Caribbean. FAO: Barbados; 2015. Available at:
[3] CARICOM. Regional Food and Nutrition Security Action Plan 2012-2026. 2011. Available at:
[4] Monteiro CA, Cannon G, Lawrence M, da Costa Louzada ML, Machado, PP.  Ultra-processed foods, diet quality and health using the NOVA classification system. Rome, FAO; 2019. Available at:
[5] Hinkson, D. Agriculture to the rescue. Barbados Today. 2018 Oct 18. Available at:
[6] World Obesity Federation. Calculating the costs of the consequences of obesity. 2017. Available at:
[7] Declaration of Port-Of-Spain: Uniting to Stop the Epidemic Of Chronic NCDs. 2007. Available at:
[8] Press Conference - 31st Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the CC. 2020 Feb 19. Available at:

Communique Issued at Conclusion of 31st CARICOM Intersessional Meeting

Communique Issued at Conclusion of 31st CARICOM Intersessional Meeting
CARICOM Heads of Government and Heads of Delegation
at the 31st Intersessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government
Photo: © Caribbean Community/Flickr
CARICOM Today: The Thirty-First Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) was held in Bridgetown, Barbados, 18-19 February 2020.  The Prime Minister of Barbados, the Right Honourable Mia Amor Mottley, Q.C; MP, Chaired the proceedings.

Other Members of the Conference in attendance were: Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Honourable Gaston Browne; Prime Minister of The Bahamas, Honourable Dr. Hubert Minnis; the Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister of Dominica; Prime Minister of Grenada, Dr. the Rt. Honourable Keith Mitchell; Premier of Montserrat, the Honourable Easton Taylor-Farrell; Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis, Dr the Honourable Timothy Harris; Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, Honourable Allen Chastanet; Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. the Honourable Ralph Gonsalves; and Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. the Honourable Keith Rowley.

Belize was represented by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Honourable Wilfred Elrington; Guyana was represented by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Honourable Dr Karen Cummings; Haiti was represented by the Honourable Bocchit Edmond, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Jamaica was represented by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator the Honourable Kamina Johnson-Smith; and Suriname was represented by the Vice President,   His Excellency Michael Adhin.

Associate Members in attendance were: Bermuda represented by the Honourable Walter H Roban, Deputy Premier and Minister of Home Affairs; the British Virgin Islands represented by Premier, the Honourable Andrew Fahie; and the Turks and Caicos Islands, represented by Premier, the Honourable Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson.
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demand urgent policy action from our leaders
Join the HCC in using this as an opportunity to demand urgent policy action from our leaders.


Regulate Food Environment - Policy Needed to Protect Children From Unhealthy Food Marketing

Nicole Foster
Nicole Foster. Policy Advisor, Healthy Caribbean Coalition
Photo: Barbados Advocate
Barbados Advocate: One health advocate is calling for the government to step up and regulate the environment where children are being exposed to unhealthy foods, beverages and its advertising.

This is the view of Policy Advisor, Healthy Caribbean Coalition, Nicole Foster, who spoke to the Barbados Advocate recently.

Her comments were in response to a press release from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Barbados (HSFB), which indicated that legislation in Chile has been effective in reducing consumers’ sugary-drink purchases and children’s exposure to unhealthy food marketing and advertising.

Foster added that children are being targeted in commercial marketing. However, she explained that in the South American country, foods with front-of-pack labels that are high in fat, salt and sugar cannot be sold in schools.

She also highlighted how the legislation addressed radio and television advertising of unhealthy foods and beverages, which target young audiences at specific times when they are more engaged in that media.
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Childhood Obesity Prevention Visuals

Childhood Obesity Prevention Infographics
HCC visuals for advocates of Childhood Obesity Prevention.
A set of infographics, highlighting childhood obesity, the risks and the HCC policy asks.
Childhood Obesity Prevention
Childhood Obesity Prevention
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Social media graphics to campaign for the implementation of our Childhood Obesity Prevention Policies
Childhood Obesity Prevention policies
Childhood Obesity Prevention policies
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Curb Obesity With Policy

Curb Obesity With Policy
Barbados Advocate: Chief Executive Officer of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Barbados (HSFB), Michelle Daniel (pictured right) is urging the government to follow the lead of Chile by implementing a law which protects children from marketing strategies which target them and bring policies that sensitise children about unhealthy junk foods and sweetened beverages.

In a recent press release, Daniel said like Barbados, Chile is showing disturbing rates of obesity and overweight among both its children and adult population.
The decision by the Chilean government to implement a comprehensive basket of obesity prevention policies has led to substantial reductions in the marketing and purchase of sugar sweetened beverages in just three years.

“It is clear that the World Health Organisation’s proposed policies can help to urgently reduce the challenge of obesity and non-communicable diseases. We look forward to our government implementing policies like these sooner rather than later, ” said Daniel.
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Antigua Barbuda Moves

HaLT on the Move!

HaLT, the Healthy Lifestyle Team of the Cancer Society of The Bahamas recently held a Health Fair at Cleveland Eneas Primary School.
HaLT Health Fair
HaLT Health Fair
HaLT Health Fair

ECHORN/Yale-TCC Webinar: Environmental Action: Clean Water Solutions in the Caribbean

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2:00pm-3:00pm AST (1:00pm-2:00pm EST) 

Environmental Action: Clean Water Solutions in the Caribbean, presented by Dr. Steve Whittaker, Postdoctoral Associate in Global Health at the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs.

The Caribbean is famed for its ocean waters. We hope you will join us for this webinar describing clean water solutions and water resource management for all Caribbean waters, including rivers, swamps, reservoirs, and oceans.

Attend online via Zoom -

RSVP online:

Presented by the ECHORN/Yale-TCC Collaborative Learning Workgroup as part of our Environmental Action series. Certificates of attendance available upon request.
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Research Study

Nutritional Adequacy and Dietary Disparities in an Adult Caribbean Population of African Descent With a High Burden of Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease
Nutritional Adequacy and Dietary Disparities
Barbados is a small island developing state and the most easterly island of the Caribbean chain. The population is approximately 280,000; 94% being of African origin (Barbados Statistical Service, 2010). For Barbadians, aged between 30 and 70 years, women have a one‐in‐eight, and men a one‐in‐five, probability of dying from an NCD (Health Situation analysis, n.d.). Cardiovascular disease (CVD), primarily heart attack and stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancers are the leading causes of premature death in Barbados.

A suboptimal diet is a known major contributor to the development of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and CVD (Ezzati, Pearson‐Stuttard, Bennett, & Mathers, 2018) and also to prevalent micronutrient deficiencies.
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Cancer Support Services Newsletter

Cancer Support Services Newsletter
In this edition:
  • Upcoming Events
  • The Patient at the Core of Care
  • Healing God’s Style
  • Supplements for Pressure Sores
  • Hunte, Squires & Reifer Families Make a Donation
  • Coping with a Cancer Diagnosis
  • On the Cusp of Life and Death
  • 15 Ways to Live in Vitality Well into Your Nineties
  • Look Better Feel Better
  • International Men’s Day Initiative
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Mexican Activists Win Fight for Better Food Labeling

Mexican Activists Win Fight for Better Food Labeling
A woman selects food at a supermarket in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico November 15, 2019
Photo: REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez
PBS News Hour:  After a decade of fighting for stronger food labeling standards in one of the most obese countries in the world, Mexican activists celebrated Monday over a new rule that will require warning labels on high-calorie products.

The new rules will require black octagonal stop signs to be printed on the front of packages reading "high in calories," "excessive salt" or "high in saturated fat," among other things.

In a country where 75.2% percent of people over 20 are either obese or overweight, current labeling rules require only a back-of-package listing of how much a product contains of daily recommended intake of key ingredients.
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Junk Food Advertising: Who Calls for Legally Binding Treaty to End ‘Predatory Commercial Practices’

Junk Food Advertising: Who Calls for Legally Binding Treaty to End ‘Predatory Commercial Practices’
Photo: GettyImages/HAKINMHANz
Food Navigator: The WHO-UNICEF-Lancet Commission is proposing a global, legally binding protocol to prevent brands marketing fast foods and sugary drinks to children.

In 2015, the world’s countries agreed on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The intergovernmental agenda of 17 goals include several targets in the food sector, including ending hunger, promoting health and education, addressing climate change, and monitoring sustainable production and consumption.

However, in a report published this week in The Lancet​, the WHO-UNICEF ​Commission say that five years on, ‘few countries have recorded much progress towards achieving them’.
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Struggling to Quit Sugar? You Might Not Be Sleeping Enough

Struggling to Quit Sugar? You Might Not Be Sleeping Enough
Image: CNN Website/Shutterstock
CNN: If you find yourself eating too much added sugar and unhealthy fats, it might be because you're not getting enough sleep, according to a study published Monday in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Researchers from Columbia University's Irving Medical Center examined the associations between measures of sleep quality and the dietary patterns of nearly 500 women who participated in the AHA Go Red for Women program, a year-long study of sleep patterns and cardiovascular risk in women.

What they found was that the poorer their quality of sleep, and the less they slept, the more the women consumed added sugars, saturated fats and caffeine.
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Sugar in Australia: A Food Systems Approach

Sugar in Australia: A Food Systems Approach
Image: The George Institute
The George Institute for Global Health: In Australia much of the debate around sugar to date has focussed on a sugar tax, a concept which is often polarising and where we haven’t seen much progress. It could also be argued that it is only a small part of a bigger problem. With this in mind, The George Institute commissioned a report, “Sugar in Australia: A Food System Approach. Competing Issues, Diverse Voices, and Rethinking Pathways to a Sustainable Transition”, with the objective of broadening the debate through investigating different sides of sugar in Australia from a food systems-perspective.
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HCC Technical Brief and Eight Advocacy Priorities

HCC Technical Brief:
HCC Technical Brief: First United Nations High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage: Technical Brief for CARICOM Countries - A Contribution from Civil Society.
Read download
HCC Advocacy Priorities
HCC Advocacy Priorities for the United Nations High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage.
NCD Alliance


In this edition:
  • New partnership aims to advance UHC and improve NCD care in LMICs
  • NCDA and WHO formalise a decade-long collaboration
  • NCD alliances awarded for work to advance the NCD agenda
  • Collaboration to harness the potential of the health workforce
  • Joint statement calls on EU to tackle NCD risk factors
  • Stopping the stigma around mental health in Ghana
  • Big alcohol’s fundamental conflict of interest
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Please Help to Monitor the Health of Caribbean Schools

My Healthy Caribbean School (MHCS) is an initiative of the HCC which provides students, teachers and parents with the opportunity to monitor the school environment with a focus on nutrition and physical activity.
Find out more
Childhood Obesity Prevention Scorecard

Key Messages From Our Publications

Sweet Beverages in the Caribbean

The consumption of sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs) is one of the major contributors to the obesity epidemic among adults and children. In the Caribbean on average data shows that 1 in 3 children is overweight or obese. The sugar content of one serving of many popular carbonated beverages and juices far exceeds the entire daily healthy maximum sugar intake for adults and children as recommended by the WHO and the American Heart Association (AHA).
How Much Sugar is in Your Beverage? Sweet Beverages in the Caribbean
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Our Publications
No Marketing to Children
No marketing of unhealthy foods to children
HCC has created a series of  visuals to advocate for front of package nutrition warning labels and to also to campaign against the marketing of unhealthy foods to children. Find out more information here.
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CARD 2019: Women and Alcohol
CARD 2019: Women and Alcohol
A set of infographics
Read more
Call to Urgent Action
Call to Urgent Action - Infographics and Social Media Visuals
Read more
See All HCC Publications
Forthcoming Events

Faces of Cancer St. Lucia Calendar of Events 2020

Faces of Cancer St Lucia
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The HCC is a regional network of Caribbean health NGOs and civil society organizations with the remit to combat chronic diseases (NCDs) and their associated risk factors and conditions. Our membership presently consists of more than 65 Caribbean-based health NGOs and over 55 not-for-profit organisations and, in excess of 200 individual members based in the Caribbean and across the globe.

To join the HCC email us at
The work of HCC would not be possible without core funding from Sagicor Life Inc
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The HCC promote the work of civil society throughout the Caribbean in a variety of ways including sharing of their materials, this is not an endorsement of their materials or messages. The information contained in this newsletter is for general information purposes only, we endeavour to keep the information up to date and correct but any reliance you place on such information is strictly at your own risk. Through this newsletter you are able to link to other websites which are not under the control of the HCC. We have no control over the nature, content and availability of those sites. The inclusion of any links does not necessarily imply a recommendation or endorse the views expressed within them.
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