Completed Research

Barbados’ Trident: A Multipronged Approach to Combatting Childhood Obesity through Advocacy, Policy, and Education

University of Toronto

The prevalence of childhood obesity among Caribbean children is much greater than the rest of the world and in Barbados 30% of children are overweight and 14% are obese. In response, Caribbean countries introduced the Port of Spain Declaration in 2007 to commit to non-communicable disease prevention and control, including guidelines for physical education and healthy meals in schools to tackle and prevent childhood obesity. Despite Barbados’ commitment to the Caribbean region’s Port of Spain declaration (2007) to reduce childhood obesity, a legal framework ensuring the presence of physical activity and nutritious meals in schools remains absent. However, community recognition of childhood obesity as a significant issue has grown and prompted the implementation of grass roots initiatives. These bottom-up community approaches have integrated sectors across society, including school administrators, religious and charitable organizations to deliver culturally sensitive methods to improve nutrition and activity levels in Barbadian children.

This case study seeks to understand how the various community-led initiatives, schools and government have contributed and interacted to prevent childhood obesity in Barbados. In addition, the study will examine how the interventions led by different sectors have affected the population’s culture, habits and actions surrounding childhood obesity prevention, specifically through nutrition and physical activity.

Hard to Reach

Interventions led by different sectors to tackle childhood obesity in Barbados.

Key Takeaways

The only way to achieve long-term prevention is through changing the culture, which is being tackled through policy and advocacy and through education at every age. Despite various barriers that have become apparent as Barbadians develop into a healthier society, the following lessons are promising:

  1. Initiatives that target a health issue such as childhood obesity require a multipronged approach to attack the issue on multiple fronts.
  2. Multisectorial initiatives can work to create permanent change, only if there is ongoing communication and constant public attention.
  3. The food industry must get on board with developing new healthy foods instead of pumping nutritionally lacking foods into poor communities.
  4. Small change is still change. Creating conversation surrounding health, nutrition, and fitness can lead to a greater awareness, and to changing habits in families.
  5. Understanding the implications of colonialism on current health crises is crucial.
  6. Childhood obesity preventions initiatives cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach.


The completion of this case study would not have been possible without the support of the Barbadian community. We thank every policymaker, health expert, civil society representative, and thought leader who participated in our research. We also expand our gratitude to our partners, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Barbados, the Healthy Caribbean Coalition, and the University of the West Indies, for their constant and unwavering support. Thank you for trusting us with your story. We notably acknowledge the foundational research conducted by Dr. Natasha Sobers and colleagues out of the George Alleyne Chronic Disease Research Centre at the University of the West Indies regarding the need for a whole-of-society approach to nutrition policy implementation. 

Throughout the research process, we have deeply valued the mentorship and leadership we received from Dr. Leanne De Souza-Kenney and the Reach Alliance team. For the numerous people who touched this case study, in known and unknown ways, thank you for your guidance.