News Releases

Obesity running us over

For Release Upon Receipt - May 27, 2016

St. Augustine

One of 42 conditions stem from physical inactivity

“Obesity, physical inactivity and all the diseases downstream from that are running us over right now. And it’s a major problem. Physical literacy is our saviour,” said Dean Kriellaars, an expert on what is known as physical literacy.

Underscoring the enormity of the issue, the Health Minister, Terrence Deyalsingh recently said childhood obesity is a national “crisis.” On May 22, Minister Deyalsingh announced that Cabinet had approved a US$48 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank for a massive state campaign against non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes and hypertension, and he appealed to family physicians to get on board with the fight against NCDs and to evolve to suit the needs of patients.

The idea of spending US$48 million on such a campaign is a stark reminder of how threatening these NCDs are, and how much can be done by way of public education, because most are preventable.

When The UWI St. Augustine Campus held the 2nd Biennial Conference on Sport and Higher Education, health issues were among the broad range of subjects under discussion.  In the keynote address, delivered at the opening ceremony on May 18 at The UWI’s Learning Resource Centre, Kriellaars, Associate Professor at the University of Manitoba, spoke to the importance of healthy bones and healthy eating, and making health a priority. He made no bones about the need to engage the population in the physical literacy movement.

Physical literacy as described by Margaret Whitehead, a leading researcher, is “the motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge and understanding to value and take responsibility for engagement in physical activities for life.” Sociology of sport theorist, Professor Emeritus Jay Coakley, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs acclaims Kriellaars as the father of physical literacy.

And he was tossing out data to illustrate the severity of the problem and to reinforce his mantra that learning to move is just as important as learning to read and write.

In comparing statistics from the US and Canada (which he draws a parallel to Trinidad and Tobago) his research estimates 30% of the population will be living with Type 2 diabetes, one of 42 conditions stemming from physical inactivity.

And he cited World Health Organization (WHO) figures that recommend that children are supposed to do 420 minutes of “huffing and puffing” every week (60 minutes a day), and  adults, 150 minutes minimum per week (approx. 20 minutes a day).

“You can only have healthy bones by eating healthy and exercising regularly,” is his constant, and he quoted Vivek Murthy, the US Surgeon General. “No matter how may sidewalks we build, no matter how many parks we construct, no matter how much we urge people to get involved in activity, it won’t work unless you give kids the ability and the competence, confidence to move and the motivation or desire to be physically active.”

And it really all comes down to learning to do the right thing. The way to deliver physical literacy in a community is through physical education, recreation and sport.

For the second edition, the First Citizens Sports Foundation once again partnered with The UWI St. Augustine’s Sport, Fitness and Athletic Development Unit as the platinum sponsor, alongside the support of the Ministry of Sport and United Airlines. The next conference is carded for early 2018. For further details, contact email the Conference Secretariat at or call (868) 662-2002 ext 83808



About The UWI 

Since its inception in 1948, The University of the West Indies (UWI) has evolved from a fledgling college in Jamaica with 33 students to a full-fledged, regional University with well over 40,000 students. Today, UWI is the largest, most longstanding higher education provider in the Commonwealth Caribbean, with four campuses in Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Open Campus. The UWI has faculty and students from more than 40 countries and collaborative links with 160 universities globally; it offers undergraduate and postgraduate degree options in Food & Agriculture, Engineering, Humanities & Education, Law, Medical Sciences, Science and Technology and Social Sciences. UWI’s seven priority focal areas are linked closely to the priorities identified by CARICOM and take into account such over-arching areas of concern to the region as environmental issues, health and wellness, gender equity and the critical importance of innovation. Website:

(Please note that the proper name of the university is The University of the West Indies, inclusive of the “The”, hence The UWI.)