Minister of Health, Dr Fenton Ferguson, is urging increased engagement by persons in healthy lifestyles, which he contends can significantly reduce the incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
His call comes against the background of data suggesting that NCDs account for a significant percentage of deaths currently occurring in Jamaica. Statistics indicate that approximately one out of six deaths is due to NCDs, mainly cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, hypertension, and cancer.
Health statistics for 2009 showed that diseases of the circulatory and respiratory systems, endocrine and metabolic diseases, and cancer, accounted for approximately 60 per cent of deaths among men, and 75 per cent among women, that year.
Data also shows that the cost to administer medical treatment for some NCDs, like cancer, averages as much as $3.6 million.
Speaking at Friday's launch of Caribbean Wellness Day 2013, at the Rooms on the Beach Resort, in Ocho Rios, St Ann, Ferguson cited tobacco use, alcohol abuse, unhealthy diets, and physical inactivity as the four main behavioural risk factors contributing to the high incidence of NCDs. These, he contended, "largely, are in our individual control".
"The excessive use of alcohol and tobacco smoking is helping to drive this increasing burden of diseases. Move towards having a low-salt, low-fat diet, and increase fruit and vegetable intake. Become more physically active, reduce your alcohol consumption, and quit smoking tobacco products," he urged.
The health minister pointed out that life expectancy in most Caribbean countries, including Jamaica, is comparable to most developed countries, such as the United States and Canada.