Feature: Study To Assess The Health Of Our Nation

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In an effort to reduce the incidences of Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases (CNCDs) in Barbados, the Ministry of Health has embarked on an initiative to provide Government with up-to-date information on the health of its citizens.?? This information will inform decision-making to address the problem.

The Health of the Nation Study launched last September, involves looking at the risk factors which contribute to the development of chronic ailments such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. These include smoking, fruit and vegetable intake, alcohol consumption and physical activity.

According to Acting Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Kenneth George, some 2000 persons are being surveyed for the study, which is a joint initiative between the Ministry of Health, the Chronic Disease Research Centre and the Statistical Services Department.

He added that trained medical personnel were conducting the survey, which was being done over a two-day period and involved a questionnaire as well as blood taking.?? Appealing to the public for its cooperation in the study, the acting CMO explained:?? "The information we will require is basic demographic information…like where you live, your age, your socio-economic information [and] educational status.

"…The reason why we want to take blood samples is that we want to know your fasting blood sugar [and] your fasting cholesterol. These are critical because that is how we make a diagnosis of diabetes or hyperlipidemia…The interviewer or the person who is collecting the data is going to come back the following day or a day that is convenient to the participant to have their blood sample drawn".

Interviewees are also expected to give an account of any family history of diabetes, hypertension or cancer, as well as some indication of whether they attend a private or public doctor, and if they have health insurance.

"The other area we will be looking at is quality of life. [This] is usually difficult to measure, but it gives you an estimation of how people feel about things in society," Dr. George added.

This study comes on the heels of the Behavioural Risk Factor Survey, which was done in 2007 and gave preliminary data on the level of smoking, alcohol consumption and food and vegetable intake in the country.?? However, Dr. George pointed out that the current survey is much more intensive and was expected to gather information that could be used to plan initiatives in this area for up to three years.

"We hope that these studies could be done every four to five years and that is why we made it so comprehensive.?? We know that studies are a bit intrusive and to me it’s better to get all the information at one time rather than [in stages].?? It’s going to require a little time on the participants and a little effort, but the way it is done is so we don’t have to come back every year and ask more questions," he stated.

Persons are chosen at random for the survey and will be called beforehand so that medical personnel can make an appointment to see them.?? Both the questionnaire and blood taking will take place at the home of the interviewee.

kim-ramsay-moore@barbados.gov.bb??

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