As Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) across the Caribbean in partnership with People Living With NCDs and youth advocates, join in the NCD Alliance Global Week of Action against NCDs, there is cause for much reflection around this specific theme of community engagement. The history and socio-economic reality of the Caribbean region has indeed crafted a culture that primarily highlights our powerlessness, especially at political and economic levels. Apart from elections every five years, the people's voice is not always a game changer. But we see more and more the winds of change, especially among our youth. Yes, in some instances, there is apathy, but there are also young people who are beginning to question the systems around them and who are realising that they do have rights and that their voices do matter.

It is with great excitement that we scroll through the many social media posts over this week of Global Action to see strong  support from health and non-health CSOs, from people living with NCDs and youth advocates joining around HCC's campaign, It's Time to Speak Up! In this region, that message resonates, as Civil Society is indeed finding a voice as we advocate strongly, consistently and persistently for evidence-based policies to reduce childhood obesity and non-communicable diseases.  Our region’s statistics around the prevalence of childhood obesity and NCDs are daunting at both the individual and national levels. Recent statistics for Barbados suggest that we lose Bds$350 million dollars annually in indirect and direct costs of dealing with NCDs. Regional statistics suggest that 1 in 3 children are obese and overweight. Yet, the region struggles to implement the much needed prevention policies proposed by the World Health Organisation.

It is within that context that CSOs in the region are joining hands and increasing our community engagements to ensure that our people, including our children, are being educated about the issues. We are forming Coalitions and strategic partnerships to ensure that our voices are being heard at the national level and by the policymakers. It is an exciting time because the winds of change are blowing and the people’s voices are beginning to set the national discourse.  This week is significant because it causes us to reflect on the international challenge that NCDs present, but also it causes us to catch sight of our global strength around these issues. It’s definitely time to speak up!


About the author:
Francine Charles is the Programme Manager for the Childhood Obesity Prevention Programme with the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Barbados (HSFB), which is a member CSO of the Healthy Caribbean Coalition (HCC).  The COP team at HSFB also functions as the Secretariat for the Barbados Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition. Francine is a trained journalist and Communications Specialist by profession. She is also one of the founding members and Chairperson of the 'My Child and I Charity' which focuses on parenting education.