Nadisha Hunter, Staff Reporter
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – Caribbean health experts have called for media practitioners to take the lead in sensitising the public to non-communicable diseases (NCDs), so as to stem the increase in chronic illnesses.
NCDs can be medical conditions or diseases that progress slowly and are not infectious. These include cancer, diabetes, heart disease, cataracts, and asthma, among a slew of other conditions.
The health experts spoke at today’s opening ceremony of a two-day workshop for Caribbean journalists on the epidemic of killer non-communicable diseases at the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) office in Bridgetown, Barbados.
The PAHO and Commonwealth Secretariat are hosting the workshop ahead of the United Nations (UN) high-level meeting on NCDs, which is to convene in New York this September.
Dr Tomo Kanda, PAHO’s NCD advisor for eastern Caribbean countries, said the media can play a significant role in supporting and empowering civil society.
She noted this can be done by enabling the voices from the community, to reach policy makers and politicians, and to make a better and healthier environment for all.
Kanda also added that stakeholders need to intensify and harmonise their efforts to avert the preventable conditions and save millions from dying prematurely.
"It is everybody's business. Everyone needs to tackle this health epidemic and this is particularly true in this sub-region, which is facing a health profile that is marked the rapidly growing burden of NCDs.
"I believe the UN High Level Meeting will be a turning point for everyone including health and non-health professionals, public and private sectors, civil society and media, if we all could make a good partnership to achieve our ultimate health outcome," she added.
Dr Leslie Rollock, NCD focal point at the Ministry of Health in Barbados said NCDs, which are commonly referred to as the ‘silent killers’ are now known to place a heavy burden on developing countries and poorer regions of the world, especially among people of lower socioeconomic status.
"The Caribbean is therefore facing a challenge, which is a direct threat to the economic gains (…) we have accrued over the last fifty years," she said.
The World Health Organization has estimated that 35 million people die each year of chronic diseases.
This figure makes up approximately 60 per cent of global deaths, and doubles the number of those who die from infectious diseases – maternal and paternal conditions combined.
According to the statistics, the mortality figure is expected to rise to 73 per cent by 2020.
Rollock noted that the Caribbean is the region of the Americas that is most affected by the epidemic of NCDs, and so media must not be understated.