The health of the nation can't be improved without higher incomes Consumer Concerns
By Eileen Cox
Stabroek News
April 13, 2003

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World Health Day was observed on April 7 this year. The theme chosen targeted children: 'Shape the future of life ... Healthy Environment for Children."

To ensure a healthy environment for children we have to take a backward step and ensure a healthy environment for all parents. How is this going to be possible when prices are rising and taxes are also rising?

Cajanus reports that there is a deficiency of Vitamin A and iron among vulnerable groups in Guyana. This is not surprising when one takes into account the number of single parents who obviously will find it difficult to obtain well-paid employment and provide conditions in the home that make for a happy, safe, and well-fed childhood.

But even in the homes that can provide the necessities for a safe and happy childhood there are hazards. An e-mail message has just come in from Consumers International seeking information on incidents involving inedibles (for example small toys) that are sold and offered to children in combination with food.

The European Parliament has launched a study to discover the possible danger which is caused by combining plastic toys and other inedibles with chocolate, ice cream, yogurt and other food for children. If there have been any incidents in Guyana of suffocation, choking, ingestion the Guyana Consumers Association would be glad to receive details of the incident or incidents in order to complete a questionnaire that has been sent to consumer organisations all over the world.

The cleanliness of homes, flushing of toilets, safe preparation of food, clean clothing, daily baths all depend on an adequate and regular supply of water. When Guyana Water Inc supplies meters that are not calibrated and then arbitrarily assesses the sum of money to be paid, we are not going to achieve the target of a safe environment for children.

For children to enjoy a healthy life there is need for a rounded personality - time devoted to study, play and spiritual matters. The single parent in today's Guyana suffers from fatigue and stress. Even when both parents are in the labour force, there is not an adequate supply of money to meet all the basic needs of a household. There is little chance of accessing additional funds unless one has a family living in the United States or in Canada. It is a day-to-day struggle and, unfortunately, the one chance of seeing daylight lay in the budget presentation. Unfortunately, there seems little hope of expecting improvements in living standards this year. What is worse is that plans are being laid to have the Value Added Tax introduced by the year 2006. This will be the death knell for consumers in Guyana.

Health depends to a large extent on the foods that we eat. The Government Analyst is not confident that some of our foods are not laced with pesticides. There is no laboratory in Guyana for testing. Grow More Foods should be the answer.

There is the tendency to turn to herbs for teas when the prices of coffee, cocoa and other beverages rise. Often we are warned about the dangers of these herbs. Some are safe - for example, lemon grass is used in Canada but consumers need to keep themselves informed about which are safe and which might not be.

To stay healthy in the world of today is not that easy. Many consumers depend on packaged food and remain ignorant of what really is in the package. Health WHICH' for December 2002 takes apart some of the packaged food available in the United Kingdom. Most consumers do not read labels before making purchases.

A consumer who purchases chicken or turkey sausages does not know what part of the turkey or chicken is used. Health WHICH? reports that in one product which claimed to have sausage meat there was a minimum of 8 per cent of mechanically recovered dried turkey.

Consumers need to improve their diet. For instance, the lack of iron leads to anaemia. In a survey carried out in Guyana over 40 per cent of all target groups were found to be anaemic. Green leafy vegetables, okra, squash, yams tomatoes should be in the diet.

Bananas are particularly good, as they also contain the vitamin Bs that are necessary for good health, and potassium. There is need for higher incomes if the health of the nation is to be improved.

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