Not just the health sector’s problem

As Barbados faces up to the reality of the social and economic impact of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) on the country, Minister of Health John Boyce today issued a call for all sectors to get on board with efforts to address the problem.

Addressing a consultation on healthy eating, he acknowledged that tackling NCDs is not a simple matter, but he is aware of the influence of trade policies, cultural practices, economic factors, and family dynamics on the development of unhealthy lifestyles.

“So, decisions taken in other sectors have an enormous influence on the adoption of healthy lifestyles generally. This includes what prices are negotiated and set, the marketing and consequent desire for high-fat, salty and sugary foods, and access to an environment that is supportive of healthy choices.

“Increasingly, we’ve come to accept the attainment of good health and wellness is just as much an issue that is related to policies in trade, agriculture, education, foreign affairs, as it is a concern to the Ministry of Health itself,” Boyce said.

He added that if careful attention is not given to policymaking, decisions in these sectors can have “a powerful negative effect” on the health of the nation.

“For a long time, the health sector has been carrying the burden of these diseases and advocating for behaviour change in order to bring about healthier outcomes. However, the time has come for all sectors to get involved in addressing non-communicable diseases and their risk factors, recognizing their own role and responsibility for the health of the nation.

“Each sector in government and in the society contributes to the health and wellbeing of the nation in its own unique way. Perhaps we in the health sector have not been as clear or as consistent in pointing out the areas where intervention is necessary or the actions which should be taken,” Boyce said.

Indeed, the figures are alarming. Chief Medical Officer Dr Joy St John reported that 80 per cent of Barbadians have at least one risk factor for NCDs, while one-third of adults are being managed for at least one NCD. Persons suffering from such illnesses occupy 60 per cent of the beds at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. There are also 200 diabetes-related amputations being performed annually.

Dr Joy St John, director of surveillance, disease prevention and control at CARPHA.

According to Dr St John, health officials spent 1.3 per cent of the total Gross Domestic Product in 2013 on cardiovascular disease (CVD), cancers, endocrine and metabolic diseases, and respiratory diseases. This figure does not include private health spend and non-health sector spend.

“In 2015, direct costs to Government were $49 million for CVD, $24.5 million for cancer, $21 million for chronic respiratory diseases and $15 million for diabetes. The 2015 indirect costs, including decreased productivity and employee losses, were estimated for CVD and diabetes at $72 and $73 million respectively,” Dr St John reported.

Chairman of the National NCD Commission, Professor Sir Trevor Hassell, told participants at today’s discussion that the importance of effectively addressing “the obesity epidemic that is plaguing Barbados” cannot be overstated.

“The reality is that links between what we eat and NCDs – specifically the high intake of energy-dense, high-calorie food contributing to obesity, which in turn leads to heart disease and stroke and all the other illnesses – and the contribution of high salt intake to hypertension, which is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke . . . these contributions and linkages are well known,” he said.

Minister Boyce, meanwhile, pointed to some initiatives in the government’s efforts to curb the rise of NCDs, including the imposition of a 10 per cent tax on sugar-sweetened beverages to discourage the consumption of those drinks.

Boyce noted that his ministry is currently drawing up new policies to present to Cabinet to promote healthy lifestyles.

5 Responses to Not just the health sector’s problem

  1. Reds Lucombe
    Reds Lucombe March 25, 2017 at 2:51 pm

    Bs..if the cost of living wasn’t so high ppl would surely be eating better ppl got to cut and contrive soft drinks aint the problem there is syrups on the shelves guess they made from milk chupse

  2. Steve Thomas
    Steve Thomas March 25, 2017 at 3:12 pm

    Fu@$ off John Boyce… what do you really know.. you never earned your place as a Politician. You were given it on a silver platter.. Times Up & We Fed Up!

  3. Tony Webster March 26, 2017 at 6:21 am

    Stoopid-questions of the week:-
    1. He jes’ now wake up?
    2. He and all other RELEVANT folks does meet and talk, every Thursduh….’bout problems dat deos require joint action by dem all?
    3. Is one of the main culprits of C.N.C.D.’s the over-arching need to educate folks- particularly , YOUNG peoples, about how to not become a C.N.C.D.statistic?
    4. Effin C.B.C.’s purpose, that is, besides racking-up $115,000,000.00 in accumulted deficits, (meaning, dat is tax-payers money gone-long in smoke) couldn’t DEM, along with G.I.S. (now to move into lux. offices at L.E.S.C.C.) produce meaningful , professional-grade ads and other programmes , ailmed at kids, and adults, to really fight the good fight against C.N.C.D.’s…on T/V., press and magazines, and ALL Social Channels? How about asking REDS ad agency (top-tier folks) to do a Rihanna ad…jest saying she “doan like no one-foot man”?? Or our St. Andrew Olympian hero, saying “Hey kids, you can run much betta…on TWO feet….lef-out de sweet”.

    For sweet Jesus sake…(sorry Lord) dat’s de best you Thursduh Throng can do???????????

    @Reds Lucombe also has a strong point: sweet-water and biscuits, was, was always the choice, when you ent got nutting to eat! And it’s “coming back into fashion”.

  4. Sharon Taylor
    Sharon Taylor March 26, 2017 at 9:09 am

    I gine round up Wa he just say as if I doing a summary! D bill for health services too high (don’t mind all of our hard earn tax paying money does pay um), so Boyce want to charge for health services but he picking at everysingle thing (sweet drinks, and more sweet drinks) before he put all of his cards on d table!

  5. Alex Alleyne March 26, 2017 at 10:36 am

    We people got it good in Bim. An ambulance ride to the hospital is “free”, to go on the asthma and diabetic machines at the hospital are free. etc, etc. To see a doc at the polyclinics are free. Most medication are free. It is said that some people call an ambulance to go get medication, (wow). It does not matter how much/many taxes you pay , medical bills will always be sky high. tread policies must play a big part in getting the best food for the people of the Country. Only a few days ago one Supermarket importer said the “ban was too fast on the BAD corned beef from Brazil”. Now how stupid can someone be.
    Make sure Barbados start up a drink factory and make drinks that are healthy and BAN all drinks coming out of T&T if they do not meet our standards. We need to bring back some manufacturing jobs to BIM so we won’t be seen as a “consumer” base.


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