This past weekend, the Barbados National Registry (BNR) held its 10th anniversary Extravaganza, where Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Kenneth George, praised that organisation for its efforts in providing information concerning the number of cases, deaths and access to services, as well as playing a major role in “helping the Ministry track trends in critical diseases which continue to affect large numbers of our population”.
He was speaking, of course, about Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases (CNCDs), such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, and some cancers, which are responsible for a high percentage of the deaths recorded in this country.
At the time, Dr. George also revealed that one particular non-communicable disease, hypertension, will be the cause of 86.3 per cent of all deaths in Barbados by 2030 if current trends persist.
It is evident then that this type of information is critical to addressing the overall challenge with CNCDs. As such, we echo the Chief Medical Officer’s praise of the BNR, for it is only through research and collecting objective, wide-ranging data that incidences of these diseases can be reduced. The BNR must continue to collect the raw numerical data, as well as carry out empirical research in order to analyse more fully the factors underlining the prevalence of CNCDs.
For instance, it has been acknowledged that to achieve better health and wellness, there needs to be a holistic approach to health care. Primarily, the focus must be on preventative healthcare – seeking to change behaviours and attitudes towards living a more active and nutrition-laden lifestyle. However, other factors like stress, mental health and financial status could also impact the ability of an individual to make healthy lifestyle choices. Therefore, having a fuller picture of an individual would help identify reasons for choices and hence highlight additional risk factors for these diseases.
While government aims to design a healthcare plan that would reduce the incidences of CNCDs, challenges like the country’s current economic hardships resulting in retrenchment and job losses; poor personal coping strategies for dealing with stress; and the simple but stark reality of poverty for many, make it extremely difficult for some to follow suggested programmes for healthy lifestyle living. Case in point, as one minister pointed out recently, there are no price controls on merchandise and the cost of an item is decided by the market. Therefore, how easy can it be for an person – especially if newly unemployed – to purchase healthy, fresh foods when a single sweet pepper costs between $3-6? Imagine what an entire salad for more than one person would cost…for an entire week! Added to this is the stress of not being in a position to afford these food items, all of which contributes to high blood pressure.
All these considerations must be noted and a realistic, truly holistic approach to reducing CNCDs adopted. We reiterate the need for the BNR’s work in collecting this information and hope that all these factors help to guide any national healthcare policy.