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Fighting heart disease

According to the Barbados National Registry, cardiovascular disease and stroke are among the leading causes of illness and death in adult males.

And, in collaboration with the Barbados Heart & Stroke Foundation, the Ministry of Health is creating policies and programmes to reduce these numbers.

This assurance was given by Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Joy St. John, at the launch of the video, Staying Alive ~ Caribbean Style, produced by the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Barbados, at the Fairmont Royal Pavilion Hotel last Saturday evening to mark World Heart Day. This year’s emphasis highlights cardiovascular disease prevention in women and children.

While pointing out that traditionally, much of the research into cardiovascular disease had concentrated on investigating how males had been affected, Dr. St. John noted that in recent times more emphasis was being placed on research related to women, their risk factors and outcomes with cardiovascular disease.

“For instance, it is widely known that until women reach menopause they have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease than men. However, men over the age of 55 and post-menopausal women share a same risk profile for heart disease,” she revealed.

She noted that the Ministry had recently partnered with the Foundation to implement Jump Rope for Heart – a skipping rope project in primary schools, in an effort to encourage physical activity among this age group. She reported that the project had been well received by children and teachers and was a source of much enjoyment for the children involved.

“This focus on children is particularly timely, given concerns among the global public health community about the rising trend in childhood obesity and its long-term effects. In this regard, the Ministry of Health is well aware that the adoption of unhealthy behaviours which occurs early on in life, such as poor nutrition choices, physical inactivity and tobacco use, can have long-term effects on the health of the young people as they grow into adult life.

To this end, the Ministry of Health has undertaken a number of initiatives to help children to inculcate healthy behaviours and attitudes. These include the development of guidelines on healthy food in schools. Work is on-going to fully implement these guidelines which offer guidance on menus, food preparation methods and portion sizes related to the availability of food in the school environment,” the CMO outlined.

She mentioned that an “all of society or inter-sectoral approach” was needed to tackle cardiovascular and other non-communicable diseases.

As such the partnership with the Heart & Stroke Foundation, through a service level agreement that purchased tertiary cardiac rehabilitation services, allowed stroke patients who did not require in-hospital care, to be able to access rehabilitation services in the public primary health care setting.

Chief Executive Officer of the Foundation, Gina Pitts, Staying Alive, which highlights emergency cardiac care, was directed by Carlos Cobham and dedicated to the memory of one the Foundation’s benefactors, William Hassell.

The main actors in the production are Carl Padmore, Myrna Squires and Anderson Armstrong and the very serious message of the reality of heart disease was blended with humour and music to capture people’s attention. It was written by Pitts.

On that evening, five automated external defibrillators were also presented by the CEO to representatives of the National Stadium, the Aquatic Centre, the National Sports Council, the Wildey Gymnasium and the Barbados Community College.

An AED is a portable device that checks the heart rhythm and if needed, can send an electric shock to the heart to try to restore a normal rhythm. AEDs are used to treat sudden cardiac arrest. (BGIS)

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