Basseterre, St. Kitts, June 11, 2017 (SKNIS): Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) continue to take a toll on CARICOM Member States, and urgent action is required to curb the threat of such diseases, said Prime Minister, Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, during National Assembly on Tuesday, July 11.
Prime Minister Harris was updating the general public and the listening audience on the 38th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM, held in Grenada from July 4-6, where he was given the opportunity to present a study on the economic ramifications of NCDs as it relates to Trinidad and Tobago. A similar study was also done in Barbados and Jamaica.
“The study estimated that five per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is being lost by the impact of preventable diabetes, hypertension and cancer. Half of that five per cent is direct medical care cost and the other half is in the loss of productivity,” said Prime Minister Harris, adding that if one was to examine the growth pattern of Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean region over the last 10 plus years, they would not find that the country would have grown by five percent.
“Therefore, when in fact five per cent of the economy is being impacted negatively with respect to NCDs, this is a major cause for concern. The costs here are significant and they are as unsustainable for any country. Importantly, these diseases are preventable impediments to growth.”
The Grenadian Prime Minister said the Heads were aware that the Region had fallen behind in the battle against these deadly diseases and also in fulfilling the goals of the declaration. He said one of the most alarming signs was the high incidents of childhood obesity, a major risk factor for NCDs
“We simply cannot afford to continue the lifestyle and food consumption patterns which are literally killing us”, he said.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the signing of the landmark CARICOM Heads of Government Port-of-Spain Declaration on non-communicable diseases (NCDs). The Thirty-Eighth CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting in St. George’s, Grenada, July 4-6, is expected to celebrate this momentous achievement. In 2007, the Caribbean led the world in convening the very first conference of Heads of Government on NCDs which in turn paved the way for the United Nations High-level Meeting on NCDs in 2011.
A ten-year anniversary is a good time to take stock, to look at how far we have come and how far we need to go. In terms of progress made in the NCD response, the picture appears to be a decidedly mixed one. Awareness of NCDs and their devastating effect on the health and development of the region has grown enormously. The dangers of childhood obesity are much better known. Barbados and Dominica have introduced taxes on sugary drinks and more countries are set to follow.
According to Executive Director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) Dr. James Hospedales, “while several governments have made policy and financial provision for free medications, oftentimes people don’t take their medicines consistently and therefore don’t get the benefit.”
Regarding some of the other challenges Dr. Hospedales said “there are gains in some areas however some, like diet/nutrition/obesity just keep getting worse, and that drives diabetes, cancer, heart disease.’
The opening ceremony will be held on Tuesday, July 4, at the Grenada Trade Centre, and the conference will conclude on Thursday, July 6.
Mr. Stuart and his CARICOM counterparts will have a packed agenda for the upcoming summit, with Heads of Government expected to review the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) and plans for its implementation among Member States. They will also be given an update on the progress towards completing the Protocol on the Refusal of Entry of Persons.
When they meet in a closed-door session, regional leaders will discuss the matter of regional security, as it relates to CARICOM’s Counter-Terrorism Strategy, especially as the Caribbean attempts to grapple with terrorism and violent extremism.