Healthy living on their minds: Minister of Labour, Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo, looks on as rehab nurse, Michelle??Atwell-Brathwaite, of the Heart and Stroke Foundation takes??Wesley??Welch’s blood pressure.??

Barbadians are being urged to accept the challenge of taking responsibility for their health and redirect their lives towards "a positive and healthy lifestyle".

This encouragement came today from Minister of Labour, Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo, as she addressed the Barbados Vocational Training Board’s HIV and General Health Fair. It was held at the C. Lomer Alleyne Skills Training Centre at Sayes Court, Christ Church, under the theme "Don’t Only Bring It – Put It On".

Dr. Byer Suckoo noted that Barbados had been witnessing a significant increase in chronic diseases related to the standard of life of citizens. "We are a more enlightened people in 2010 and, therefore, recognise that many of the diseases that exist today can be delayed or prevented by a change in lifestyle. Yet today, many Barbadians are developing these chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity and cardiovascular disease.

"… In Barbados, chronic diseases account for approximately 65 per cent of all hospital admissions and cost the Barbados Drug Service an estimated 35 to 40 million dollars on an annual basis," she disclosed.

Dr. Byer Suckoo said the Ministry of Health had already reported that a growing number of young people were being diagnosed with at least one chronic disease. She continued: "This is placing an increasing burden on the health care system and on families [because] more money has to be spent in treatment, more tests have to be carried out, more beds are required for hospital treatment and there will also be an increase in absenteeism from work and less production in the work place as a result."

Dr. Byer Suckoo told her audience that 95 per cent of the trainees of the Board fell between the ages of 16 and 25, and explained that this age group was among the persons most affected by HIV and AIDS, that is, those in the economically productive age group ranging from 16 to 49 years.

"… This has implications for all organisations and includes the potential for reduced productivity and the loss of skills and knowledge of workers living with HIV or any other chronic illness. It is also why the Ministry of Labour considers it important to continue work on the anti-discrimination legislation because persons with HIV are living longer and should be encouraged to continue to be productive," she maintained.

The Labour Minister commended the employees of the Board, noting that its HIV/AIDS Education Programme had already educated over 1000 trainees, while more than 200 persons had received voluntary counselling and testing. But, she stressed that education was only the first step, and pleaded with the gathering, which included young people, to act on the information they received and change their behaviours.

Dr. Byer Suckoo further encouraged them to avoid using marijuana and cocaine, drink alcohol in moderation; that is, one drink if they were old enough; stay away from smoking, never drink and drive and remember that conflict resolution is the peaceful solution.??saustin@barbados.gov.bb

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