Prime Minister Freundel Stuart is urging all Barbadians to take personal responsibility for their health as a means of living a productive and healthy life.

In addition, Mr. Stuart has called on all, especially those who are at high risk, to take the message of ???prevention of diabetes??? very seriously. He made the comments over the weekend while delivering the feature address at the official opening of the Maria Holder Diabetes Centre for the Caribbean, which is located at Warrens, St. Michael.

The Prime Minister disclosed that public patients referred to the Centre would have to meet pre-approved criteria and would receive intense clinical care over a six-month period.

He further revealed that in excess of 300 persons with diabetes from the private and public health care sectors would benefit from the service annually and Government would review the programme after two years.

He told his audience: ???Diabetes is second only to cardiovascular disease in the hierarchy of causes of morbidity and mortality in Barbados. Statistical evidence shows that around 18,000 of our fellow citizens have contracted diabetes. However, based on epidemiological projections by the World Health Organization, it is estimated that there are another 9,000 individuals who have most likely contracted diabetes but are currently either unaware of their condition or are asymptomatic.???

He pointed out that current evidence indicated that 14.4 per cent of Barbados??? adult population was diabetic, but explained that the figure rose to 18 per cent in the group of persons 40 years of age and older. He noted that in excess of 90 per cent of diabetic patients were classified as type 2.

???Regrettably, we are also well aware that many cases of diabetes are occurring in younger adults and even children. In our nation, unhealthy eating habits and more sedentary lifestyles are increasingly threatening the health of Barbadians at an earlier age,??? he lamented.

Mr. Stuart stated that in a study commissioned by CARICOM in 2001, researchers found that as much as five per cent of Barbados??? gross domestic product was spent on the management of diabetes and hypertension.

According to him, Government???s support of the Centre started with the lease of the land the building is on. He said the Ministry of Health would be referring patients to the Specialist Centre for treatment and gave the assurance that ???though in challenging times, we will continue to make the health of our people a priority???.

The Prime Minister explained that the Centre would provide preventative, therapeutic and rehabilitative interventions for the newly diagnosed diabetic, as well as those cases that were difficult to control or with reversible complications.

In addition to clinical care and community outreach, Mr. Stuart emphasised that the Centre would also be involved in surveillance and research in diabetes.

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