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Doctor: Some face greater ZIKV risk

Published:Friday | January 29, 2016 | 12:00 AM

As Jamaica prepares for the Zika virus (ZIKV), Director of Health Promotion and Protection in the Ministry of Health Dr Sonia Copeland is urging people living with non-communicable diseases (NCDs) to be particularly vigilant.

Copeland pointed out that persons with NCDs such as hypertension, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases, and cancer are at higher risk of complications and severe symptoms from ZIKV.

Copeland was speaking on behalf of portfolio minister Horace Dalley at the launch of the Heart Foundation of Jamaica's (HFJ) Heart Month on Tuesday at the Spanish Court Hotel, New Kingston.

Heart Month is being observed in February under the theme 'Obesity, A Weighty Matter'.

Copeland noted that this year's observance is timely as it "comes at a time when particular focus needs to be placed on the importance of observing a healthy lifestyle as a result of the advancing threat of the Zika virus."

She welcomed the focus on obesity and pointed to the need for increased emphasis on childhood obesity which, she said, was as urgent as adulthood obesity.




Citing the 2014-2019 Regional Plan of Action for Promoting Healthy Weights in the Caribbean, developed by the Caribbean Public Agency, Copeland said that at least one in five children is carrying unhealthy weight and is at risk of developing NCDs later in life.

"These are very worrying indicators of their future health that we will eventually have to face if we do not take action now. We know that childhood obesity will, most likely, persist into adult obesity, which leads to the NCDs," she said.

Copeland stressed that sustained interventions with respect to NCDs were important and lauded the HFJ for its dedication to public education.

Chair of the HFJ and consultant cardiologist Dr Andrene Chung said that the theme emphasises the importance of sensitising Jamaicans about the health risks associated with obesity.

"It really is important for us to consider obesity and overweight because it has an important role to play in the risk for cardiovascular diseases," she said.

Chung said that research indicates that in Jamaica, there are increasing levels of obesity and decreasing levels of physical activity.