WITH JAMAICANS affected by increasing non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and forced to shell out billions of dollars annually for treatment, the Ministry of Health is moving swiftly to establish a cancer-care centre to ease the socio-economic burden on persons with all types of cancers.
Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson made the announcement while delivering the opening address at the 11th Caribbean Neurosciences Symposium at the Montego Bay Convention Centre last Friday.
"Jamaica is currently facing an epidemic of NCDs, which threaten our economic and social development. NCDs are responsible for 56 per cent of Jamaican deaths, 20 per cent of which are caused by cancers," Ferguson said.
He further explained that: "Chronic non-communicable diseases alone cost the Ministry of Health over US$29.2 million or $2 billion to treat annually, and while the ministry is committed to providing the level of care required, there is a serious disparity in terms of the opportunity cost of treating these avoidable illnesses and their complications."
Ferguson said based on the debilitating impact that NCDs and in particular cancer have on the economy and the people, the Ministry of Health was working rapidly to establish a centre of excellence for the treatment of all types of the disease.
"The Ministry of Health is proceeding at a fast pace to establish a centre of excellence for cancer care. The impact of cancer can be devastating on the affected individual, the family, community, the health system and society as a whole. I am now leading the charge that leads to a broad spectrum attack on cancer: prevention, screening, early diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care."
The health minister said NCDs and poverty were contributory factors to a vicious cycle.
"Poverty exposes persons to the main risk factors for NCDs, unhealthy diet, tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, and physical inactivity that lead to the development of NCDs (cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes etc)," said Ferguson.
He added: "This, in turn, leads to loss of household income due to unhealthy behaviours, physical status and high health-care costs and compounds poverty at the household level, beginning the vicious cycle again."
He said men and women are not affected in the same ways, noting that men are more likely to use tobacco and consume alcohol in excess while women are more likely to be obese and physically inactive.