??Prime Minister, Freundel Stuart (left), in discussions with Minister of Health, Donville Inniss, Minister of Industry, Denis Kellman and CEO of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Dr. Dexter James. (A.??Miller/BGIS)

Health officials are being challenged to adopt new methodologies to combat the incidence of non-communicable diseases since their treatment is responsible for a huge chunk of the island’s national budget.

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart made this suggestion today, while addressing a National consultation in Preparation for the United Nations High-Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs).?? It was held at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.

He said working to bring about lifestyle changes required a different approach that was not only based on curative interventions using medication and hospitalisation, but one that inculcated bold actions to tackling NCDs.

"We need to rebuild ourselves in terms of how we live our lives on a personal level.?? We need to rebuild our communities; and we need to rebuild our society to adequately respond to the challenges of today," Mr. Stuart underlined.

The Prime Minister, quoting from a 2001 Chronic Disease Research Centre study conducted by the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus, revealed that there were 38 000 Barbadians aged 20 and over living with high blood pressure.

Mr. Stuart said of equal importance is the fact that when the economic burden of managing people with hypertension was analysed, the costs of medical care, loss of productivity, premature death and disability, amounted to $145, 311, 954, or 3.51 per cent of the island’s gross domestic product (GDP).??

"…It is not enough to merely state a statistic.?? There is a realisation that every statistic represents a worker, a mother, a care giver, father, son, or daughter; or a grandparent, a community volunteer, or church worker…these statistics describe us Barbadians.

"We are all at some level affected by NCDs because a relative, co-worker, friend or neighbour has been affected. Non-communicable diseases have consequences that make life difficult for people, involving as they do, rising health care costs and increasing demands on our time and limited services," he surmised.

The Prime Minister recalled when Barbadians were more physically active and lamented that this had changed as a result of economic development and increasing affluence. He warned however, that failure to arrest the incidence of NCDs among the population could wipe out developmental gains.

"Although successive governments have been and continue to be committed to investing resources in health to the greatest extent possible, we are often faced with making choices between competing demands and worthy developmental gains.

"It is ironic that living in today’s world may inherently increase our risk of developing NCDs.??

We must often work longer hours to meet our financial goals, and yet at the same time, work is more sedentary than ever. We have developed habits of leisure time and physical inactivity that are hard to break and some of us cite time constraints for consuming inadequate diets and not exercising regularly," Mr. Stuart suggested.

The United Nations High-Level Meeting is slated to be held on September 19 at the UN Headquarters in New York.


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