Not enough focus on chronic diseases

Executive Director of the newly-established Caribbean Public Health Agency, Dr. James Hospedales
Executive Director of the newly-established Caribbean Public Health Agency, Dr. James Hospedales

An health expert warned Barbados and other small island developing states this morning, their over-emphasis on economic development was literally killing their citizens.

This was submitted by Executive Director of the newly-established Caribbean Public Health Agency, Dr. James Hospedales who was part of a high-powered five-member panel, chaired by Barbados Minister of Health, John Boyce that tackled the subject:Towards sustainable development of SIDS:Addressing the threat of non-communicable diseases.

Drawing briefly from the just-released UN International Panel on Climate Change, Hospedales said “we are over consuming alcohol, and tobacco,food and fossil fuel; and it’s the combination of those, that’s killing us on this planet.”

In his quest to show the “inextricable” link between non-communicable diseases and sustainable development, the health executive submitted that NCDs were the symptom of the failure of the shift in development.

“So the problem is not such much the NCDs, it’s the way we have chosen to develop. A huge focus on economic, economic, economic and not paying enough attention to our planet and not enough attention to our people,” he declared.

Noting cardiovascular disease, cancers, diabetes and chronic respiratory disease as the four NCDs, the Public Health Agency executive director revealed that these conditions accounted for about 65 per cent of all the deaths, and a large chunk of the premature lives lost, along with injuries and violence in Barbados and the rest of the region.

Hospedales said those four diseases were driven by four common risk factors such as high levels of alcohol consumption, “and not only in middle age people, or men, but also in boys and girls,” the medical practitioner asserted.

“Boys and girls age 12 to 16 years of age in this region; I was shocked when I saw some of the statistics in the PAHO Global School Health Survey, the levels… that have been drunk during the last months, as I said, not just the boys, but the girls equally,” he stated.

He also cautioned that sedentary lives, fatty, salty and sugary diets along with tobacco, which he observed was the chief killer, were speeding up the death toll.

Hospedales also identified obesity was a major contributing factor to the destruction of societies, explaining that “our region of the Americas is the fattest of the six WHO regions. Nothing to be proud of.”

The health expert suggested that these diseases had implications for mental health, depression, arthritis and dementia. “So all is not well in paradise. Several of the highest in this hemisphere, several of the top spots for diabetes prevalence in the Caribbean … Barbados and … the US-Mexico border is a special situation; Belize and Trinidad and so on,” he warned. He stated that about 40 per cent of people in the region were living with some form of chronic NCD, excluding obesity, which the medical practitioner argued would be the majority if included. He disclosed that obesity was getting worse and that for diabetes: one in five, to one in 10 adults; hypertension: one in three, to one in five, while 40 to 45 per cent of adults in Haiti were hypertensive. (EJ)


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