Obesity rate soar in the Caribbean Netherlands

The National Institute for Public Health and the Environment RIVM conducted a health monitor on the islands.

imagesOne in six inhabitants of the Caribbean Netherlands are smokers, one in eight are heavy drinkers and more than six out of ten are overweight. Half of the population is getting sufficient exercise. Women smoke and drink much less than men but are more likely to be obese and exercise less. These are some conclusions from the Health Study which was conducted in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba in 2017.

In collaboration with the Public Health departments of the public entities, Central Bureau for Statistics (CBS) and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment RIVM conducted a health monitor on the islands. This Health Study was held to gain insight into the overall health status of the island population and into common infectious diseases, as well as to examine whether the population is well-protected against the infectious diseases against which they are vaccinated as part of the National Vaccination Program. A total of 1,900 people participated in the study.

Of the Caribbean Dutch population, 17 per cent say they smoke. Only two per cent are heavy smokers, smoking an average of 20 or more cigarettes per day. Women are much less likely to smoke than men. Smoking behavior varies per island.

On Saba, 24 per cent of the population are smokers, versus 17 per cent on Bonaire and 13 percent on Statia. On all three islands, the number of heavy smokers is relatively small.

In the Caribbean Netherlands, 11 per cent of non-smoking residents are exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke indoors for at least one hour per day. On Bonaire this concerns 12 per cent of the population; on Statia three per cent and on Saba 11 per cent.

This also includes children. On Bonaire, nine percent of those younger than 12 smoke passively for at least one hour per day; of the non-smoking 12 to 15-year-olds, this share is 14 per cent. On Statia and Saba, fewer children seem to be exposed to tobacco smoke.

One in eight residents of the Caribbean Netherlands is a heavy drinker. This concerns eight per cent of women versus 17 per cent of men. Women on all three islands drink less alcohol than men.

Statia has the lowest share of heavy drinkers at eight per cent. On Saba and Bonaire, the shares amount to 16 and 12 per cent respectively.

A heavy drinker is defined as someone who drinks six or more alcoholic beverages in one day at least once weekly for men, or at least four in one day for women.

Half of the population (49 per cent) of the Caribbean Netherlands meets the Dutch Physical Activity Guidelines. The share meeting this standard is higher among men (59 per cent) than among women (38 per cent). Saba women turn out to be physically much more active than those on Bonaire and Statia. On Saba, 58 per cent of the female population meets the activity standard, as against 38 per cent of woman on Bonaire and 32 per cent of women on Statia.

More than six out of 10 residents of the Caribbean Netherlands are overweight, half of whom are obese. Women and men are equally likely to be overweight, but obesity is relatively more common among women at 36 per cent, against 26 per cent of men. Statia has the highest share of obese women at 46 per cent.

Due to methodological differences, the results cannot be compared one-on-one with the figures for the European Netherlands. However, researchers concluded that there are relatively fewer active smokers in the Caribbean Netherlands. Conversely, non-smokers are significantly more likely to inhale other people’s smoke compared to the European Netherlands. This share is even four times higher in children. Furthermore, there are many more obese people in the Caribbean Netherlands, with the obesity rate at least twice as high, researchers said,

These are the first results taken from the Health Study Caribbean Netherlands. The first results of the study on the degree of protection against infectious diseases will become available later this year.

The Health Study Caribbean Netherlands is to be used in the preparation of public health reports for each island and provides an important basis for local authorities in shaping public health policies.

The information about unhealthy behavior is deemed important because such behavior may lead to diseases such as diabetes, various forms of cancer and cardiovascular disorders.

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