By Dr Neals J. Chitan
One of the hallmarks of great leaders is their ability to make tough and resolute decisions that will benefit their people and their region despite the opposition they may face; Grenada has grown to be one such leader in the Caribbean.
With the region facing the disastrous consequences of climate change and environmental degradation, it was time for small island nations to get out of the conference rooms where recurring empty discussions on the issue occur and walk-the-talk instead. And though small as compared to other islands, the Spice Isle with its track record of socio-political leadership etched in its history, was again ready to bring its legislative gavel down and take a stand against non-biodegradable products.
In September 2018, passionate talk turned into legislation as Grenada became one of the first small island nations to pass a Non-Degradable Waste Control Act, banning the importation and use of Styrofoam and single-use plastics like; plates, cups, cutlery, straws, and shopping bags, by February 01, 2019. Although this move has positive regional implications, it was for the preservation of the environment, wildlife, and health of its citizens that prompted the legislation. As a matter of fact, minister of environment Simon Stiell views it as an attempt to reduce the negative environmental impact of non-degradable products while protecting the health of Grenadians.
This stalwart leadership was again replicated during the last few days as the health of the nation’s children was given targeted consideration by the ministry of education and its minister Emmalin Pierre.
During her 2020 budget speech, Pierre emphatically painted a picture of the growing obesity problem among school-aged children in Grenada and her concern for the uncontrollable use of sugary drinks and snacks consumed by students. Citing some very concerning stats relating to the student obesity problem in Grenada, minister Pierre unequivocally stated to her colleagues in the house and the viewing nation, her intentions of again bringing down the legislative gavel against these sugary refined foods and drinks and ban them from the nation’s schools as of January 01, 2020.
Apart from the known health consequences of juvenile diabetes, obesity, and growing heart problems among younger children, there is now the concern of impaired brain functioning caused by excessive use of sugar.
In her article “This is what sugar does to your brain” published in the wellness section of the Huffington Post, author Carolyn Gregoire is quoted as saying “We know that too much sugar is bad for our waistline and our heart health, but now there’s mounting evidence that high levels of sugar consumption can also have a negative effect on brain health — from cognitive function to psychological wellbeing.” Gregoire goes on to cite a 2012 study from UCLA that indicates that excessive sugar slows down cognition and damages brain synapses creating poor communication among brain cells.
If that is so, I can now understand the boring inattentiveness in students that so many teachers complain about after lunch or snack breaks. In addition to the physiological issue of lower blood supply to the brain while blood rushes around the stomach for digestion after a meal, which of course causes drowsiness and inattentiveness, we now have effects of sugar on brain chemistry to deal within the classroom.
The rest of the cycle we can surmise. With this possible sugar-generated increase in attention issues in a classroom where focusing is compromised, it is easier to see the link with behavioral problems. If brain communication and synapses are affected and cognition is retarded by use of excessive sugar, can’t you see how frustration can set in as students are unable to cope with the momentum and workload that a teacher delivers? This can begin the downward cycle of frustration, disruption, and enforcement, ending in behavioral patterns that can profile a student for life.
As an international social skill consultant who has worked in school boards across North America, England, Africa and the Caribbean, and who has my personal experiential professional opinion on the effects of excessive sugar on behavior; I hereby strongly support the pending legislation proposed by minister Pierre as she leads the way in promoting maximum health, top academic performance and a phenomenal play experience for the students of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.