Sat | Dec 3, 2016

More Focus Needed for Prevention

Published:Friday | March 27, 2015 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin
Ian Allen/Photographer Dr Fenton Ferguson (centre), minister of health watches as Melinda Henry (left), parish nutritionist for St Catherine prepares fruit salad duirng the launch of the National Food Based Dietary Guidelines 'Healthy Eating, Active Living'. Looking on is Everton Anderson, chief executive officer, National Health Fund. The launch was held at the Terra Nova All Suite Hotel, St Andrew on Wednesday.

JOINING SIX other Caribbean countries to launch the food-based dietary guidelines for the country, Minister of Health Dr Fenton Ferguson has said more emphasis will be placed on promoting preventative health practices.

Speaking at the launch held at the Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel in St Andrew, Ferguson said for too long the country has focused on remedy instead of prevention.

The food-based dietary guidelines for Jamaica is a pictorial representation that focuses on our own Jamaican foods, portion sizes, food groups and eating patterns in order to provide the required nutrients to promote health and prevent chronic diseases.

"Over the last 11 to 12 years since the existence of the National Health Fund, we were spending over $20 billion, and only one million was spent on prevention and promotion. While we have made some strides in the health sector, going forward, we must focus on prevention. A dollar spent on prevention is far better than a dollar spent on cure," he declared.

Effective implementation

"We have seen challenging times and we have had good days, and I regard this (launch) as a good day. Oftentimes, we develop policies and strategic plans for the control and prevention of NCDs (non-communicable diseases), but the implementation of those plans remains dormant," Ferguson said.

Making reference to elements of the programme which include nutrition science, food science and technology, educational, behavioural and social sciences, agricultural, and environmental science, Ferguson said the Government is serious about promoting proper health practices among citizens.

"This was developed in an effort to provide nutrition and health-related recommendations to promote healthy eating habits and lifestyle such as physical activity in the population," he said.

"Many thought my move to implement the Public Health (Tobacco Control Regulations), 2013 was draconian, despite the input of several stakeholder groups for over a decade. The evidence is glaring, and the cost of not acting would be great," Ferguson said.

He added: "It means we would allow diseases such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory disease to go unchecked as measured in terms of immense human suffering, economic losses, the cost of clinical care and psychological effect of the family and community. Our people deserve much better."

The Government last year announced a nationwide ban on cigarette smoking in public spaces, including bus stops and sporting venues.

jodi-ann.gilpin@gleanerjm.com