The increasing tendency towards obesity among our children and young adults writes the story of an unhealthy future for Barbados.

This was acknowledged by Minister of Health, Dr. David Estwick as he addressed the 35th Annual Awards function of the Barbados Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors at Accra Beach Hotel.

He said, “The effects of lifestyle diseases can greatly influence our capacity to be productive and to build strong communities. They can rob us of the opportunity to see our children grow to adulthood or of the pleasure of enjoying all that we work so hard to achieve in life.”

Highlighting the types of lifestyle diseases affecting the nation, Dr. Estwick said: “Among adult Barbadians 90,000 are overweight; 19,000 persons are living with diabetes; and 40% have hypertension. These diseases, along with heart disease, stroke and some cancers represent the main threats to the productive capacity of the country, in terms of sick days claimed and sickness benefits paid out as a result.”

The Minister added that over the last five years the NIS had received over 50,000 sickness claims and paid out BDs $16.3million.

Alluding to a recommendation by the World Health Organisation, he told insurance and financial personnel “… encouraging people from early on in life to be proactive about public and private measures intended to protect income security over the life span, along with teaching children the value of saving for the future are two key concepts associated with active healthy ageing.”

And, he continued, “Together with regular physical activity, good nutrition, smoking cessation, social integration, as well as access to preventive medical services and moderate alcohol consumption, these factors comprise a prescription for good health or the potential for physical, social and mental wellbeing that each one of us strives to achieve.”

While admitting that managing diabetes and other Chronic Non-communicable Diseases (CNCDs) imposed a high economic cost, Dr. Estwick said, “These costs do not include the social or emotional costs that result from amputations or the early death of a parent, a spouse or a worker.”

Data on the economic burden of CNCDs, reported in “Stemming the Tide of Non-communicable Diseases in the Caribbean”, the working document of the landmark Head of Government Summit on CNCDs, held in September 2007 revealed that the direct and indirect costs for managing diabetes in Barbados amounted to approximately BDs$75 million or 1.83% of GDP; while the cost for hypertension was approximately BDs$145 million or 3.59% of GDP, in 2001. (JG)



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