Minister of Health and Wellness, Ian Gooding-Edghill. (FP)

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) account for 70 per cent of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s budget, while hemodialysis costs the State approximately BDS $12,000 to $15,000 per patient annually.

Additionally, about 300 persons undergo major limb amputations each year, resulting in disability and an economic loss to companies and families. 

Minister of Health and Wellness, Ian Gooding-Edghill, shared these facts this morning while addressing the opening of the Plant Biodiversity and Traditional Medicine Virtual Symposium, hosted by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grants Programme (SGP) implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the University of the West Indies.

“The availability and diversity of foods from plants and animals remain the best means to achieve a balanced diet. However, part of the burden of non-communicable diseases continues to be poor nutrition.

“Across all sectors of our communities, NCD challenges include low fruit and vegetable intake, high salt consumption, and high fat intake. For example, research has shown that 79 per cent of women and 89 per cent of men consume more than the recommended 1.5 grams of sodium per day.

“Across all sectors of our communities, NCD challenges include low fruit and vegetable intake, high salt consumption, and high fat intake. For example, research has shown that 79 per cent of women and 89 per cent of men consume more than the recommended 1.5 grams of sodium per day.”

Minister of Health and Wellness, Ian Gooding-Edghill

“I, therefore, challenge the entrepreneurial class to explore methods of preparing tasty and nutritious indigenous food.  I also ask that the scientists look at various plant strains that can aid in providing medicines that can be complementary to our orthodox medicines and pharmaceuticals,” he stated.

The Health Minister pointed out that, in previous years, when local food, plants and traditional medicines were consumed at a higher rate, the health burdens presented by NCDs were not present.  

He told those attending the virtual symposium that the use of traditional medicines required a complete understanding of what was done in the past and a move towards evidence-based scientific research.

Mr. Gooding-Edghill further added that the local pharmacognosy (the use of plants as medicines) was important and while traditional medicine had earned its place in local folklore, it was time to transform this knowledge into pharmaceutical development.

Acknowledging that it would be challenging to change the dietary and eating habits of Barbadians, he noted that if nothing was done to remedy the situation, the projected burden of chronic diseases was set to become worse in the future.

The Health Minister said research has shown that 79 per cent of women and 89 per cent of men consume more than the recommended 1.5 grams of sodium per day. (Stock Photo)

Citing a 2012 World Health Organization Global School Health Survey of 26 secondary schools in Barbados, the Health Minister said children were not achieving the recommended physical activity, and their consumption of fruits and vegetables was low.  The survey also showed that 75 per cent of school-aged children consumed sugar-sweetened beverages on a weekly basis.

He said a new National Strategic Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs – 2020-2025 was developed in 2020, under the guidance of the National NCD Commission. It outlines the activities through which Government and the Ministry of Health and Wellness intend to address the burden of NCDs, which are the main causes of morbidity and mortality in Barbados.

“The plan takes advantage of recommended, evidenced based, cost-effective interventions for NCD prevention and control, and aligns with relevant global and regional frameworks, including the World Health Organization, the Pan American Health Organization and CARICOM.

“I, therefore, challenge the entrepreneurial class to explore methods of preparing tasty and nutritious indigenous food.  I also ask that the scientists look at various plant strains that can aid in providing medicines that can be complementary to our orthodox medicines and pharmaceuticals.”

Minister of Health and Wellness, Ian Gooding-Edghill

“In addition, the Ministry of Health and Wellness will take to Cabinet for its consideration a national school nutrition policy which identified critical areas such as marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages to children; promotion of water as a good alternative to sweetened beverages; the identification of the School Meals Programme as a good entry point to inculcate good nutrition in the school-aged population, and the promotion of compulsory physical activity in primary and secondary schools,” Mr. Gooding-Edghill explained.

He added that COVID-19 had severely affected efforts aimed at increasing NCD prevention and control but “in the fight against the virus, we need to continue even more than ever to protect our most vulnerable population – those persons living with, or suffering from non-communicable diseases, against the recurring threat of COVID-19”.

The Health Minister pointed out that his Ministry would continue its health care system reforms focusing on priority areas such as strengthening health systems, improving family and child health, and promoting behavioural change approaches to healthcare.

melissa.rollock@barbados.gov.bb

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