Barbados is the first island in the Caribbean to have a National Registry dedicated for specifically gathering information on Chronic Non-communicable Diseases (CNCDs).

It was officially opened yesterday at the headquarters of the Chronic Disease Research Centre (CDRC), located on Jemmott’s Lane by Minister of Health, Donville Inniss.

“The need for a registry to document the incidence of Chronic Non-communicable Diseases in Barbados has been a policy objective of the Ministry of Health for some time,” he declared.

Explaining that the objective was driven by the stark reality of the “rising tide” of Chronic Non-communicable Diseases (CNCDs) among our population, Minister Inniss said: “We need to consider the fact that over 90,000 adult Barbadians are overweight; 19,000 have diabetes and 40% of Barbadians over the age of 40 years are living with hypertension; while diabetes and hypertension together account for 20% of all primary health care consultations in Barbados.” 

He pointed out that one of the main consequences of the high prevalence of CNCDs was the correspondingly high expenditure on the treatment and care of persons living with these diseases, where a significant proportion of government’s budgetary allocation to the health sector was spent on this type of treatment.

To further highlight this point it was revealed that for the Financial Year 2007/2008, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital spent over BDS. $90 million, or 65% of its budget on interventions associated with CNCDs, while for the same period the Barbados Drug Service spent approximately BDs $31 million or 60%  of its budget on drugs, used to treat the same diseases.

It was further indicated that as the cost of health care increases these figures would also rise. The Health Minister noted, however, that Government’s decision to establish the BNR was not based solely on an assessment of financial expenditure. He said, “Consideration has also been given to the associated social costs to individuals, families, communities and the nation as a whole.”

He said: “Diabetes, hypertension, stroke, cancer and heart disease were at one time thought to be more common among the elderly. Increasingly, they are occurring in mid-life, the most productive stage of the life span. When these diseases occur, especially if complications are present, individuals can be robbed of the ability to fully participate in family activities or to contribute to community life and may be unable to function optimally on the job.” 

And, he pointed to data on the economic burden of Chronic these ailments published in “Stemming the Tide of Non-Communicable Diseases in the Caribbean”, the working document of the Heads of Government Summit on CNCDs, held in September 2007, in Trinidad. He said it was reported that: ‘CNCDs accounted for the largest number of potential years of life lost, that means years lost before the age of 65 years of age.’  For 2004, this represented some 65,000 persons, in the Caribbean Region. 

The report also indicated that 50% of all deaths could be attributed to CNCDs in the Caribbean and occurred in persons under the age of 70 years. It also raised
concerns about an increasing level of obesity in children and the occurrence of diabetes in adolescents.   

The BNR is a national surveillance system that is being headed by Director of the CDRC, Professor Anselm Hennis and his team, on behalf of the Ministry of Health. According to the Health Minister the establishment of the BNR is also an indication that CNCDs are an urgent national priority. He explained that it would strengthen the national response to dealing with CNCDs and its outputs would assist the Ministry in its planning process.  “At the policy level, the BNR will help the Ministry of Health to identify policies that are shaped by needs for new or improved services, especially in relation to prevention and early intervention,” he said.

It is also expected that the work of the National Commission for CNCDs, which was established in January 2006, will benefit from the output of the BNR, especially as the Commission moves in a more decisive manner to broaden prevention programmes.
The agreement to establish the BNR was signed between the Ministry of Health and the University of the West Indies in August 2007. Initially, there were plans to  establish a Cancer Registry; however, its Task Force recommended broadening the scope to include stroke and heart disease, recognising that there were great 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 for its development. From the start-up in the 2006/2007 Financial Year through to 2010/2011, the European Union would have contributed BDS $2 million towards the establishment of the Registry.

Three registries – the BNR-Stroke; the BNR-Heart and the BNR-Cancer – comprise the National Registry for Chronic Non-communicable Disease.

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