Thu | Jan 18, 2018

Doctor's Appointment | Curbing dirty habits can go a far way ... Prevention is better than cure

Published:Wednesday | March 29, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Dr. Sara Lawrence, host, Dr.'s Appointment listens keenly as Chief Medical Officer in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Winston De La Haye speaks to some of the bad habits Jamaicans practice which pose health risks for us all. He stressed the need for a change in thinking and habits, if communicable diseases are to be reduced.

For this week's appointment, we spoke with Chief Medical Officer in the Ministry of Health Dr Winston De La Haye about some of the dirty habits we have that adversely affect our health and reduce our chances of preventing the spread of certain diseases. We also explored some of the possible interventions to deal with our culture of self-sabotage in terms of various unhealthy practices.




As Dr De La Haye pointed out, smoking remains a high-risk activity that not only affects those who choose to engage but also those who are forced to participate, as they share space with the person who holds the cigarette, cigar or spliff. The prevalence of lung cancer has been found to be higher in those who are exposed to second-hand smoke.

A useful mitigation strategy, aside from legislation and enforcement, Dr De La Haye suggested, is an education campaign that recognises that people who become addicted do not begin smoking with the intention of developing an addiction. They are instead caught in a practice which has consequences they do not fully understand.




In addition to creating unsightly pile-ups of garbage and unbearable stenches, improper disposal of waste contributes to the creation of hotspots for vector-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue, chik-V, and most recently, ZIKV, to develop. Tyres, bottles, old pans, other plastic and styrofoam containers and items that can hold water long enough for mosquitoes

to breed pose a threat to the viability of the country's already ailing health-care system.

The infestation of rodents and insects are also of concern to the health of humans, while the deterioration of infrastructure puts a strain on economic resources. Dr De La Haye explained that enforcing laws against irresponsible disposal and making it personal to each citizen are key to changing how they treat with their environment.




Communicable illnesses spread more easily when those who are afflicted do not observe effective ways of managing symptoms such as coughing, spitting, sneezing, blowing of the nose, among others. An epidemic can result if the virus at the centre of an illness is not prevented from finding a new incubation ground, that is, in another person. Influenza, common cold or hand, foot and mouth disease are some examples.

Additionally, bacteria which contribute to sickness, for example, Ebola, can also spread through activities such as urinating on the street. Therefore, to help control spread of viruses and/or bacteria, Dr De La Haye noted that coughing or sneezing in the inside of the elbow instead of in the palm, regular washing of the hands before eating and after using the bathroom, and desisting from releasing bodily waste in gullies, as well as other public spaces, are also helpful.




With non-communicable diseases, which are those illnesses that cannot be caught by sharing a space with or touching a person who is affected, a change in diet and lifestyle is the best option. Diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol and obesity, which are common in Jamaica, may be influenced by family history but, in most cases, can be prevented or managed. Eating less sugar, exercising and having regular check-ups are some of the ways to keep healthy.

- Join us next Sunday at 5:30 p.m. on TVJ for your next Doctor's Appointment.