Numerous health advocates have been constantly and consistently sending the message that better nutrition and frequent physical activity are key in reducing the likelihood of falling ill with a chronic non-communicable disease.

However, it appears that such critical messages about how to combat chronic non-communicable diseases (CNCDs) are at times falling on deaf ears. By the looks of things, Barbadians are still continuing to enjoy fast foods, to engage in tobacco consumption and Bajans still love a good dose of alcohol.

The latest reports indicate that one-quarter of adult Barbadians have a chronic non-communicable disease and this statistic is expected to rise to one-third by 2030. Given the current health profile of Barbadians, efforts are now being concentrated on the promotion of healthy lifestyles, rather than simply the treatment of disease, with a view to decreasing risk factors for chronic diseases, given the report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that 80 per cent of non-communicable diseases are preventable, using simple lifestyle interventions linked to behavioural change.

Now the Healthy Caribbean Coalition (HCC) has issued some startling statistics about the burden of CNCDs in Barbados and the region. The HCC has noted that in the Caribbean, the chronic diseases of concern are heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases. These are caused by biological factors such as high blood pressure, obesity, high blood sugar and high blood cholesterol. The HCC asserts that in Latin America and the Caribbean, chronic diseases are now the leading cause of premature mortality, accounting for nearly half of all deaths of persons under 70 years, and for two out of three deaths overall. The HCC goes on to state that diabetes is a major cause of admissions to hospital, kidney failure, blindness and limb amputations in the Region. Obesity and overweight is an ever-increasing concern and challenge in almost all Caribbean countries. The Coalition suggests that the human and economic cost burden of these conditions is not sustainable and could undermine the development of the region’s small, fragile countries.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Barbados recently placed the spotlight on the troubling issue of cardiovascular disease amongst women here on the island and has also expressed concern about childhood overweight and obesity. Nevertheless, in spite of the information that is out there and the preventative campaigns by the various health advocates and agencies out there, Barbadians still do not appear to have fully grasped the severity of what is before us health wise as a nation, and the work that must be done to combat CNCDs in a more serious way.

It is high time nonetheless that Barbadian citizens pay greater heed to all the messages presented to them and take up the challenge of leading healthier lifestyles. The situation as it is, is already dire. While the health authorities and health advocates are doing their part to combat the rise in CNCDs, if Barbadians continue to throw caution to the wind where healthy living is concerned, then much time, effort and money will be wasted, and we will remain burdened by diseases that can be prevented.

Barbados Advocate

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Advocate Publishers (2000) Inc
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