With the frightening revelation that an average of three strokes occur every two days in Barbados, and about a third of these persons die within the first month after the event, the Barbados National Registry (BNR) believes these and other related statistics are cause for concern. As a result, Barbadians ought to support the agency’s efforts at collecting relevant data to assist policy-makers.
This point was stressed last Friday by Director of the Chronic Disease Research Centre (CDRC), Professor Anselm Hennis, whose agency is collaborating with the Ministry of Health to advance its work.
While addressing the media on the "State of the Nation’s Health", at the Ministry’s headquarters at Jemmotts Lane, Prof. Hennis described the figure on strokes as "a worrying statistic for the island" and said: "We also know from work that we are doing with the Registry that, after heart attacks, approximately a third of Barbadians actually die after discharge. That again is a fairly high rate and that is worrying."
He added: "We have also determined at the CDRC that there is quite a high level of mortality after an amputation in persons with diabetes… about two thirds or so of these persons die within one year."
Other data provided by CDRC official revealed that, in addition to "a high mortality [rate], after strokes", one third of the adult Barbadian population have hypertension and ten percent have diabetes.??
Outlining the rationale for such a registry Prof. Hennis said, "The only way you can target your resources to develop interventions is to have fundamental information, and this is what these registries allow us to do. So, if you introduce strategies you would find ways to encourage people to seek health care and in a more appropriate fashion. You would show the areas of primary and secondary health care that need more attention."
He noted too that the element of monitoring and evaluation had the effect of highlighting "the benefits and the best use of scarce tax-payer dollars to make these outcomes in the right direction…"
Prof. Hennis observed that the Registry was "a very bold initiative by the Ministry of Health to come to grips with the actual occurrence of these diseases and to get a sense of the underlying risk factors".?? He went on: "In other words, we [can] then get a very clear sense of the strategies we need to reduce the burden of ill health in our community and reduce expenditure."
Pointing out that the project was designed as a surveillance system with the well-being of all Barbadians in mind and "in the national interest", he said: "We are actually getting information which is very pertinent to developing public health policies and strategies, utilisation of resources, a needs assessment and ongoing monitoring and evaluation, which are very critical aspects of any credible health care platform to make a change for the better."
In a related vein, the Registry’s Director, Angela Rose, called for more support for that body, noting that what was important about a national registry was its ability to be fully representative of the whole population.
Urging the public to come forward and support the BNR, located in the environs of the CDRC, she said, "… unless we are getting really good coverage of every patient suffering from a stroke, a heart attack and cancer on the island, then the Registry won’t be able to produce as robust data as we would like. So, what is really important is that everybody participates in the registry."
Although the BNR was launched in March, 2009, the agreement to establish it was signed between the Ministry of Health and the University of the West Indies (UWI) in August 2007.?? Initially, the plan was to have established a Cancer Registry; however, the Cancer Registry Task Force recommended broadening the scope to include stroke and heart disease, recognising that there were greater benefits to be realised through such collective action.
A significant contribution, in the form of technical assistance and funding, was provided by the European Union (EU). From the start-up in the 2006/2007 financial year through to 2010/2011, the EU have contributed some BDS $2 million, to date, towards the establishment of the BNR.
Three registries – the BNR-Stroke, the BNR-Heart and the BNR-Cancer – comprise what is also referred to as the National Registry for Chronic Non-communicable Disease.
It is hoped that the important work being undertaken by the BNR gets the prominence and attention it deserves; as the agency strives, albeit with limited resources, to counter the impact and consequences of those diseases to which it seeks to bring awareness and evoke life-style change.