Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases (CNCDs) have diminished as the leading cause of illness and death in Barbados. This is according to Minister of Health, John Boyce, who spoke recently at the opening of a National Consultation Workshop. Nonetheless, CNCDs are still a grave concern for Barbados’ healthcare system and it is far past the time that all Barbadians wake up and realise their role in alleviating this problem facing our healthcare and economy.
For nearly a decade now there have been continuous warnings about the unhealthy lifestyles that too many people lead, eating a diet of poor nutritional value and getting insufficient exercise. Over the years there have been numerous information campaigns designed to educate the public about the benefits and dangers of certain foods, and the risks associated with CNCDs. There have also been groups formed, for instance the Healthy Caribbean Coalition (HCC) and the National Task Force of Physical Activity, which are aimed at reducing the cases of CNCDs through policies and programmes.
Despite this and other efforts, local healthcare and the economy are still being burdened by the heavy blow of CNCDs, leaving one to conclude that people are just not paying attention or are refusing to change their behaviour. This means that not only will affected individuals have to pay the price for their actions, all tax-paying citizens will have to share in paying the price as well.
In his remarks at the Consultation Workshop, Minister Boyce shed light on this issue when he divulged that 58 per cent of the Barbados Drug Service’s expenditure last year was spent on drug therapies associated with the management of non-communicable diseases. He also revealed that the World Health Organisation estimates that BDS$64 million was spent on the treatment of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes in Barbados. When one considers the economic challenges facing this country at this time, these figures are an unnecessary burden that could be alleviated through simple discipline. It becomes evident that poor lifestyle choices are far more damaging than any weight added from eating fattening foods.
Even more burdensome than the cost of healthcare treatments is the cost associated with loss of productivity as a result of these CNCDs. “It was indicated that the economy may be losing as much as Bds$145 million annually due to missed work days, low productivity and reduced workforce participation. In other words, the direct and indirect economic cost of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes was over Bds$209 million annually, or about two per cent of Barbados’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP),” the Minister lamented.
Certainly in a country where service is the dominant form of activity across the private and public sectors, CNCDs can bring about troubling issues of poor service delivery and low productivity. In light of this we urge every Barbadian to do the right thing and live healthier lifestyles. Government and the private sector can only do so much with education campaigns and facilitating workplace wellness programmes. In the final analysis, the decision to make a change lies squarely on every person’s shoulders.