Rising Healthcare Costs Impacting GDP

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by Joy Springer

Barbados is losing 2.6 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product due to healthcare costs and productivity losses in respect of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases alone.

This was revealed by Minister of Health, John Boyce, as he addressed the 69th World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, this week.

He told the Assembly that last year Barbados hosted a mission of the United Nations Inter-agency Task Force on the Prevention and Control of NCDs, and the Task Force had endorsed recommendations made in the Barbados NCD Strategic Plan.

He identified some of these as the scaling up of actions to reduce obesity, hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular disease; and the proposed implementation of a comprehensive regulatory framework to improve the nutritional quality of food and beverages. Mr. Boyce said that particular attention was being paid to childhood obesity, the precursor to most non-communicable diseases.

A childhood obesity plan, which identified roles for civil society, faith-based organisations, the private sector and academia, was being implemented, he announced, with five strategic lines of action. These were the strengthening of breast feeding practices, physical activity, and dietary, regulatory and fiscal policies.

The Health Minister told his audience that Barbados recognised that transforming the world necessitated a reversal of negative trends and the reinforcement of health-enhancing behaviours by all populations at each stage of life.

“For smaller developing countries, whose capacity is restricted by limited resources, domestic, regional and international partnerships provide the greatest opportunity to build the capacity necessary to realise the 2030 SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) Agenda,” he submitted.

Touching on the issue of climate change, Mr. Boyce said: “We are now in the middle of a real-time scenario, mitigating the direct impact of global warming with the rapid spread of Zika, a newly declared global health emergency.” This challenge followed closely, he said, on the heels of two other mosquito-borne diseases, dengue and chikungunya, and their infiltration into temperate climates.

He called therefore for urgent adherence to the Paris Agreement of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and further appealed to developed countries to urgently meet their obligations of financial and technical support to less developed and more vulnerable countries.

joycspring@gmail.com

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