A healthy lifestyle equals longevity
A healthier lifestyle is one sure way of reducing deaths from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and reducing what is spent nationally on health care for persons afflicted with these diseases.
Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson reiterated this challenge last week while addressing the Review of The National Strategic Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases in Jamaica at the Knutsford Court hotel. Dr Ferguson said that NCDs are among the top 10 causes of death in Jamaica.
Giving a breakdown he noted that many common illnesses such as hypertension, heart disease and diabetes were related to unhealthy diets and a lack of exercise, factors he noted could be reduced by living healthier.
"NCDs are now a threat to development in Jamaica and across the world. In Jamaica, the direct and indirect cost to treat hypertension and diabetes accounts for 6 per cent of gross domestic product. The year 2009 figures show that NCDs accounted for approximately 60 per cent of deaths among men and 75 per cent of deaths among women," said Ferguson.
He added that non-communicable diseases accounted for 36 million deaths each year globally, and were among the leading cause of death for people in Latin America and the Caribbean.
New approach needed
Dr Ferguson suggested that a 'whole of society' (Government, civil society & private sector) approach was needed to effectively address the problem and urged the gathering of policymakers and other senior health professionals to tackle the problem.
"As policymakers we have to put strategies in place locally to combat the incidence of these debilitating illnesses to improve the health of our population," the health minister urged, recommending that health professionals continue to pursue partnerships with stakeholders and include others in order to achieve their goals.
The minister said his ministry has been working in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation, Inter-American Development Bank, University of the West Indies Regional Surveillance Project and CARICOM to create a road map for tackling the NCD epidemic in Jamaica.
Giving some background to the issue, Dr Ferguson said that in September 2007, the heads of government of CARICOM states held a summit in Port of Spain, Trinidad and issued a declaration calling upon governments and civil society to urgently address the threat of NCDs in the region.
The two-day retreat included over 60 experts from government ministries, health professional and civil societies groups to review and agree on the priorities set out in the Strategic Plan, which is the first comprehensive strategic plan for NCDs in Jamaica.
It addresses the four major conditions causing death and morbidity in Jamaica: cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory diseases (Asthma and COPD) and the four major risk factors - physical inactivity, unhealthy eating, harmful use of alcohol and tobacco use.
In addition to these areas, the plan also covers special areas such as violence and injuries prevention and sickle cell disease, and builds on past work done in the area of NCDs, such as the 2004 National Policy for the Promotion of Healthy Lifestyles in Jamaica; Port of Spain Declaration Global, Regional and Caribbean Strategy and Action Plan for the prevention and control of NCDs and Vision 2030.