Barbados not alone with sudden deaths, says PAHO expert

A regional health expert has explained that the spate of sudden deaths is not unique to Barbados, as other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries suffer from similar high rates of the lifestyle illnesses that lead to premature deaths.

The issue has generated widespread attention as an unusually high number of people pass away in very public places, including at work and on the road.

Dr Tomo Kanda
Dr Tomo Kanda

The most recent example was on Tuesday when 69-year-old Shelmar Jones collapsed and died while riding his bicycle near Graeme Hall on the ABC Highway.

Barbadians have speculated on the cause of these premature deaths, prompting Chief Medical Officer Dr Kenneth George to explain that non-communicable diseases (NCDs)were responsible for the 24 sudden deaths between late January and mid-June. There were 21 such deaths during the corresponding period last year.

In an interview with Barbados TODAY Thursday, advisor on non-communicable diseases and mental health at the Barbados office of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) Dr Tomo Kanda explained that NCDs were prevalent across the Caribbean and were responsible for more lives than any other disease.

“Non-communicable diseases – cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and respiratory diseases, those are the major causes of deaths in Barbados . . . not only in Barbados but in CARICOM countries in general,” Dr Kanda noted.

The PAHO/WHO official did not provide comparative figures, but she said, “premature mortality because of NCDs – meaning people dying aged between 30 and 70 because of non-communicable diseases – is still high” across the region.

The authorities here believe the extensive coverage of these deaths on both social and traditional media has made it appear that the issue is strictly a local one.

Dr Kanda said persons who died from NCDs would have been harbouring conditions that resulted in their passing.

“Non-communicable diseases are . . . a chronic condition and at some point you develop risks signals – raised blood pressure, raised blood glucose, or obesity.

“The individual must know those signs, and if you properly manage those risk factors, it can be preventable,” she stressed.

The regional health official said people needed to do a better job at managing their lifestyles and adopting healthier eating habits.

However, Dr Kanda acknowledged that the cost of healthy foods could sometimes be prohibitive.

“It is not medication only, but also how we can empower people living with condition with self-management skills
. . .  .We provide guidance only on how an individuals should be eating healthy, however this kind of approach itself is not enough. In order to access healthy food, which is quite costlier than unhealthy food, consider the environment, how people can have access to affordable food,” she said.

13 Responses to Barbados not alone with sudden deaths, says PAHO expert

  1. Alex Alleyne July 23, 2016 at 7:59 am

    Power drinks , sexual enhancement pills and drinks trying to prove who is the baddest one on the block.

  2. Brien King
    Brien King July 23, 2016 at 8:25 am

    It was speculated that it could be NCDs, it was never confirmed that it was NCDs that caused the deaths, something funny going on here.

  3. Donna Harewood July 23, 2016 at 9:07 am

    I don’t think it is really the cost of the food that is preventing them from eating well. Many people prefer to spend on non-essential items rather than fruit and vegetables. Nobody is there you see what you eat at breakfast and dinnertime unless you invite them. But everybody can see the car you drive, the telephone you carry in your hand and the suitcases you bring back from New York. Besides, there are ways for even people with no back yard to grow some of the vegetables and fruit that you need for a healthy lifestyle. But many prefer to spend their time in front of the big screen television.

    • Anthony July 24, 2016 at 10:45 pm

      I don’t think it fair to assume that everyone has the means to afford a healthy lifestyle, eating real food can be very expensive and time consuming consuming and with the busy lifestyle people have today it can be quite hard to eat un-processed foods. However it’s true prioritizing is very important and I think if people do prioritize and spend their income on what is healthy and sustain life the working class will find that they are really just living to work and working to live cause the wages or way too low and I think that fact is what makes many make wrong lifestyle decisions.

  4. Ejd July 23, 2016 at 11:17 am

    We must look at what has changed in Barbados. In modern Barbados men and women are drinking more. There are parties, shop limes and karaoke almost every night of the week. Almost every crop over song promotes drinking rum, and without chaser. Barbadians are now eating large plates of food all hours of the night – the souse, chicken wings, macaroni pie, fish cakes.

  5. jrsmith July 23, 2016 at 12:03 pm

    @ , Donna H, hail, hail, on the button, must add in most cases the junk food people buy is worth more than would prepare a reasonable meal for 2 to 3 persons. Being black and bajan so many people as friends and a quainttances has fallen prey to diabetes, strokes , heart attacks because of they life style and avoiding visiting the doctor and if they do visit refusing to take medication ..

    We need in Barbados the government start to care about the heath and welfare of ordinary bajans, may it compulsory everyone have a yearly check up at affordable cost and those who cant pay have a voucher to have the free medical check…

  6. Mike July 23, 2016 at 1:38 pm

    It is very hard for me to believe Barbados had a similar number of people dropping down dead in public last year. I hope the government seriously investigate each case for similarities. If it continues people will panic and I know of lots of people now purchasing drinking water as they don’t believe the government case on safe drinking water. I personally believe it is a biological agent that is shutting down the emune system. I hope not and I hope it is not a new strain of Zeka

  7. Tony Waterman July 23, 2016 at 10:51 pm

    @Alex Alleyne!!!!!!!yes Red Bull Gives you wings, to fly away

    @ Brien King!!! did you miss the Edition wher the Medical Officer gave stats showing, how may persons had dies the previous year of NCD’s and how may had this year???? look back and yu will have the answer that you obviously missed, no frigging in the rigging.

    @Donna Harewood!!!!Yup, status will beat health any Day.

    @jrsmith!!!!! You Said:- “”We need in Barbados the government start to care about the heath and welfare of ordinary bajans, may it compulsory everyone have a yearly check up at affordable cost and those who cant pay have a voucher to have the free medical check…””
    Unforunately there is no clause in the Barbados Constitution to allow the Government to force the Citizens of Barbados to do that, and PLEEEEAAAASE don’t say that the Constitution can be changed, that’s a very bad idea to change that document to take away peoples rights to be free to do whatever they want to do up to and including “Dropping Dead”.

    @Mike!!!!hard to believe or not, statistics proves it, the difference this year, is the amount of IDIOTS posting CRAP on facebook, that they have no way of backing up with solid proof, you too by making statements about creating panic, are NOT helping. like the Man said people just can’t stand the truth.

  8. BoboTheClown July 23, 2016 at 11:01 pm

    An autopsy on all these people who are keeling might show that there is a common factor with each one. Either they all have had the same life style ,eating the same greasy junk foods that are clogging they arteries and inhibiting they breathing, resulting in sudden death.

  9. ch July 24, 2016 at 3:29 am

    @Donna Harewood and Ejd- you have said it all. You can’t force adults to seek healthcare or take medical advice and the Ministy of Health has done all it can to provide free healthcare ; medications and public education.
    But some Bajans pretend they cannot sit and wait to be seen about their health but can spend hours at a Cropover event after sitting in traffic or standing in long lines to get there. They will wait in hot sun to buy the macaroni pie and fried foods.
    They can’t find money to pay for an Xray but can spend hundreds on Remy hair and a pair of sneakers.
    Don’t feel sorry for them.
    But we can do more for children. Parents need to demand proper school meals ( and pay the extra cost needed for fresh foods)- the Ministry of Education needs to STOP all vendors from selling junk food and pizza on or near their school premises. Give one or two licences to sell fruit only. Do not allow children in secondary schools or their parents to bring lame excuses for Not doing PE and sports. Make it compulsory- our high school girls are too obese.

  10. Alexi July 24, 2016 at 4:50 am

    Are persons asking government to dictate what they should eat and do. Is this not the slippery slope of government control. Can you imagine government telling you you can’t eat pizza. A school going against a parent’s wishes and asking a child to exercise and the child collapsed. Lawsuit. The way to hell is usually paved with good intension

  11. Anthony July 24, 2016 at 10:35 pm

    For whatever reasons I believe it may be the cheap energy drinks I think those drinks should be looked into cause they are being consume at large frequent amounts and I have heard some complain about the drinks racing their heart

  12. harry turnover July 25, 2016 at 8:24 am

    …How can one say that if one dies away from home that it is SUDDEN and in the SAME breath say that if one dies inside a building it is not sudden….then ALL deaths are SUDDEN because if one doesn’t know when he or she gine dead…. when ya dead it got to be sudden……it is either ALL are sudden or death itself is not sudden.


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