Prime Minister Freundel Stuart (left),
chatting with the Rotary District
Governor, Tony Watkins, on his way
into the conference. At right is
Permanent Secrertary
(Special Assignment) in the Prime
Minister’s Office, Captain Randolph
Straughan. (C. Pitt/BGIS)

Government has expressed an interest in working with the Rotary Club to assist in its fight against chronic non-communicable diseases (CNCDs) that, if left unchecked, could erode the social gains which the island has enjoyed for the past five decades.

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart made this point yesterday, while addressing the official opening ceremony of the Rotary District 7030 Conference and Assembly at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.

He remarked that although the conference’s focus was on diabetes, attention should also be paid to the other CNCDs, such as obesity and hypertension – main triggers of stroke and heart failure in many adults.

Mr. Stuart said the growing awareness of these devastating lifestyle diseases had galvanised the Heads of Government of Caribbean states to hold a special summit in Trinidad in 2007.

During the meeting he added, the statistics showed that the incidence of CNCDs in the Caribbean region was the highest in the Americas.?? Of equal importance, the Prime Minister said, was the total amputations at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital stood at 995 for diabetics and 230 for non-diabetic sufferers.????

"What is disturbing about these facts is that these lifestyle diseases are preventable.?? Hence, agreement was reached in the Port of Spain Declaration, to use legislation, policies and programmes, to make a frontal attack on this threat. Government is firmly committed to responding positively to all aspects of the Port of Spain Declaration, and has demonstrated its commitment in several ways, such as increasing the taxation on tobacco, banning smoking in public places and organising events.?? We look forward, therefore, to closer collaboration with you in the drive to improve health in the region," Mr. Stuart noted.

The Prime Minister also praised the Rotary Club for its sterling work in tackling health threats such as the HIV/AIDS pandemic and the almost total elimination of polio.

"Your greatest claim to fame is your success in almost eliminating polio from the face of the earth.?? Within 25 years, you have succeeded in ridding children of a disease that has been afflicting them, some say, since biblical times.?? You [Rotary Club] have raised over half a billion dollars, by various means, won the support of wealthy sponsors like Bill Gates and have immunised over two billion children.

"Today, there are only four remaining pockets where polio can be found – Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan and India.?? In all these countries, local philanthropists have taken hold of the baton to help complete the task," Mr. Stuart surmised.

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