The Government of Barbados will continue to play a leadership role and create the conditions for the success of a regional response to the chronic non-communicable disease (CNCD) pandemic.
Prime Minister David Thompson gave this assurance last evening at Accra Beach Hotel, as he delivered the feature address at the opening ceremony of the Healthy Caribbean 2008 Conference, dubbed a “Wellness Revolution Event”.
Recalling the mandate of the Declaration of Port-of-Spain, given at the Special CARICOM Heads of Government Summit in Trinidad last year September, Prime Minister Thompson said Barbados’ commitment was evidenced “in a very tangible way, during the Financial and Budgetary Statement presented in June of this year, through the increase in taxes on tobacco products by 100% and the removal of duty free concessions”.
He noted the serious nature of the CNCD pandemic and said: “Take for example the case of Barbados, which is showing patterns that are very similar to those in other CARICOM jurisdictions. In 2001, the prevalence of diabetes among adults was 16.4%. Total amputations at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital between 2002 and 2006 were 995 for diabetics and 230 for non-diabetics.
“The estimated cost related to diabetes in Barbados in 2001 was US$37.8 million and hypertension US$72.7 million. These costs alone accounted for over 5% of the island’s gross domestic product. Interestingly, the incidence of diabetes in Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere, was found to be 7.3%.”
Concern was also expressed about the effect of the pandemic on children, as well on the workforce. The Prime Minister said: “The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Barbados has been reporting an increasing number of cases of stroke among children. Similarly, the incidence of obesity among children is highly visible on our streets.”
He continued: “The second cause for concern is the close association between stress and CNCDs. People in high status jobs, working to deadlines in an environment where failure is publicly visible, are prone to stress. Who could these people be? Politicians, lawyers, prime ministers and so on!”
The Healthy Caribbean 2008 Conference is in keeping with the Declaration of Port-of-Spain. Other aspects outlined in the Declaration include the establishment of National Commissions on CNCDs, a legislative agenda, the establishment by mid-2008 of comprehensive plans for the screening and management of chronic diseases and risk factors, so that by 2012, the re-introduction of physical education in our schools would ensure the promotion of programmes of healthy eating and increased physical activity.
Barbados has been a leader in setting the agenda for the management of CNCDs by being the first English-speaking Caribbean country to establish a National Commission for CNCDs. This Commission has been mandated to formulate sound policies and programmes to address these diseases, with emphasis on prevention. Out of the work of this Commission will come recommendations for legislation to tackle the threat posed by CNCD’s.
With respect to the promotion of physical activity, Barbados joined the rest of the region in celebrating Caribbean Wellness Day on September 13. Broad Street was closed to vehicular traffic and a number of activities related to physical exercise, good nutrition and wellness were conducted.