Minister of Health, Donville Inniss and Special Envoy for CNCDs, Professor Trevor Hassell at the??media briefing. (J. Riley-Thornhill)????

Government has reiterated its commitment to reducing the burden caused by chronic non-communicable diseases (CNCDs) through well planned strategies for their prevention and control.

Minister of Health, Donville Inniss, emphasised this today as he addressed a media briefing about the management of CNCDs. He also announced the appointment of Professor Trevor Hassell as Special Envoy for this area.

Noting that the last complete analysis done on CNCDs was almost 10 years ago, Minister Inniss said when extrapolated into modern times, the data indicated that for those over the age of 20 in Barbados, over 38,000 individuals are living with high blood pressure; 90,000 persons seem to be overweight; over 19,000 are diabetic; and one person suffers a stroke every day.

He added: "In terms of real costs, this translates into about, at current dollar value every day, $250 million that is being spent on an annual basis treating non-communicable diseases… which currently consumes roughly about 60 per cent of the national health care budget.

Stating that there existed no infinite amount of money to be spent on the health system, he said, "I think that our goal here is to make Barbadians aware of the magnitude of the problem – what is Government’s expenditure on it; which has nothing to do with what is spent on it privately, and to let you know what we have been doing about it and what we intend to continue doing …, particularly on the preventative side of the health strategy."

Mr. Inniss outlined that his Ministry was also strengthening its monitoring and evaluation surveillance system, affirming that at the end of the day, it made no sense spending money without making evidence- based decisions. "That is why we continue to be so much in support of the work of Professor Anselm Hennis and those at the Chronic Disease Research Centre (CDRC) because their research and analysis then helps us to make better informed decisions within the Ministry of Health," he maintained.

Mr. Inniss pointed out that the most recent research he had seen from that agency indicated that there were some 559 strokes occurring in Barbados and stressed that CDRC provided the kind of demographic and clinical information, that the physicians and other care givers needed to make informed decisions also about heart attacks and cancers. "The surveillance and collection of data is extremely important in our exercise here and we will continue to support and expand such wherever possible," the Health Minister emphasised.????

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital was also acknowledged as adequately managing CNCDs, but Minister Inniss cautioned against negating the importance of the primary care setting.

He observed: ??"The emphasis has been almost exclusively on hospitalisation, ignoring the fact that it is more cost effective to deal with these individuals at the primary care level, which involves preventative strategies, such as – how do we avoid persons becoming ill; or developing these CNCDs, and then at the primary care level to ensure that those individuals get access to the right kind of care at that level, which then minimises the need for them to be hospitalised.?? Hospitalisation should be seen as the last resort."

Meanwhile, Special Envoy for CNCDs, Professor Hassell, pointed out that "though it was very early days to give preliminary data," the Barbados National Registry was already "supporting the point that heart disease is a significant problem in Barbados."

CNCDs include heart disease, stroke, diabetes mellitus, respiratory disease, including asthma and some cancers, which are caused by biological risk factors such as high blood pressure, obesity, high blood sugar and high cholesterol.


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