The island’s primary health focus for the past 18 months has been on COVID-19, however, attention must also be given to the continuous management of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
Family physician, part-time lecturer in Family Medicine at UWI and a member of the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners (BAMP) COVID-19 Task Force, Dr. Joseph Herbert, underscored the importance of constantly managing the country’s NCDs, especially in a COVID-19 environment, this morning, during a press conference with COVID-19 Public Advisor, David Ellis.
He noted that the public is daily informed about the number of cases and deaths as a result of COVID-19 via the dashboard, but stressed it is important for the public to also recognise the effects the pandemic has had on other areas in the health care system, which is currently under strain.
Dr. Herbert stated: “By straining the health care system, having less doctors available to do the normal tasks of looking after people with emergencies and NCDs, less nurses, … that people’s appointments are being postponed, their surgeries are being postponed…. You know that means that it’s harder for people to get care for the conditions that we had previous to COVID.”
The part-time lecturer in Family Medicine at UWI continued: “In addition to that, we have unprecedented financial stressors and psychological stressors. That means that the lifestyle issues that lead to non-communicable diseases are exacerbated.
“So anecdotally, what we are seeing in the clinic, is that people with that level of stress are having more severe or more common psychological distress; we see that people are finding it harder to maintain healthy lifestyles, and therefore may be having issues like gaining weight or not sleeping as well; may not be able to afford the healthy food, and these things all have an impact.”
The family physician pointed out that if more effective plans are not put in place to mitigate preventions of NCDs, such as investing heavily in preventative care at the public health level; creating healthier environments; making persons more aware of the sugar and salt content in their foods, then an increase in chronic diseases post COVID-19 can be expected.
“We have to plan for that and do whatever we can to nip that in the bud and address it as best as we can, given the limitations that we have.… There’s not a perfect solution, but we have to do the best that we can…. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” Dr. Herbert stressed.
He acknowledged that persons may be scared for their health, and gave a few tips to assist them in accessing health care.
These include making sure they know the procedures and numbers for accessing health care at the QEH and polyclinics; talking to their private doctor about any concerns they may have; calling the health care hotlines for credible information (COVID-19 hotline – 536-4500 and for positive cases – 536-1800), and creating support/“buddy” systems with persons who suffer from the same ailments.