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COLUMN – Tackling our NDCs for good

Don’t use too much salt in your diet.

Drink more water.

Lessen your sugar intake.

Cut back on fatty foods, and junk foods.

Increase your physical activity; etcetera, etcetera.

The list can go on for a mile, simply on account of non-communicable diseases or NCDs, as they are most commonly known; or, better yet, the top killers of the working class around the world.

And Barbados is no exception.

Not taking the advice given above leads to diabetes, strokes, heart disease, cancers and respiratory diseases that are all taking a toll on the health and wellness of the country, as well as draining Government’s coffers.


“These chronic conditions account for 84 per cent of deaths suffered by Barbadians. The probability of dying prematurely, that is, between ages of 30 and 70 years from the four main causes of NCDs is 14 per cent in Barbados,” according to United Nations (UN) officials.

And if that was not scary enough the fact sheet states: “More than one-half of the victims of NCDs are among those younger than 70 years old.

“. . . Increasing disposable income, sedentary lifestyles and acquired tastes for high fat, salty and sugary foods have contributed to the epidemic of NDCs,” the UN stated, adding that “the high reliance on motorized transportation and ease of access to tobacco and alcohol products have all contributed to the NCD burden” in the country.

It’s a situation that is so widespread and worrying that Government is now in the process of forging ahead with what it calls a “whole-of-Government” response to prevent and control these conditions, in order to protect the health of Barbadians, national development and sustain economic growth –– because as the adage goes, “the health of a nation is the wealth of a nation”.

“The Government of Barbados recognizes that it cannot manage the ever-increasing burden of NCDs by treating people with these conditions. We simply cannot afford to do this.

“What we have to do is prevent these diseases in the first place,” Minister of Health John Boyce stated.

For that reason a UN Task Force On The Prevention And Control Of NCDs has been in Bridgetown for the past week, the first such visit by that group to the Caribbean region, to share solutions on how to respond to this worrying health issue.

“Working to prevent NCDs is the best investment for our children. This is now a priority for the Government, and is now being taken with utmost seriousness at the highest levels of Government. Therefore we welcome the support of the task force in helping us tackle NCDs,” Boyce said.

Following talks with the relevant the authorities, the mission concluded what many a doctor has been warning Barbadians for years now.

“ . . . One third of adults in Barbados are obese, one third have raised high blood pressure and a fifth have diabetes . . . . Main risk factors for NCDs in Barbados –– unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, tobacco use and the harmful use of alcohol.”


To this end Boyce says his ministry and the Government at large have committed themselves to implementing several recommendations made by the task force to address the issue.

They include enhancing public policy to support people making healthy choices, and the creation of supportive environments for persons at risk of NCDs; strengthening primary health care to more adequately address upstream the determinants of NCDs; and rendering support for a detailed understating of the socioeconomic impact of the NCD burden in Barbados.

Steps that the task force –– which included representatives from WHO, FAO, UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF and UN Women –– believe will provide good results for the country and its people.

“These are highly cost-effective and feasible to undertake. If implemented, they can result in dramatic reductions in NCDs over a fairly short period of time. The Government is now well placed to deliver on its NCD strategy,” Dr Olge Chestnov, assistant director general of non-communicable disease and mental health of the World Health Organization said.

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