Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, says the Government will continue to take a collaborative approach to tackling non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
To this end, he said the Ministry will be working with several other Ministries and agencies in ensuring that priority consideration is placed on developing policies that target the prevention and control of NCDs and their risk factors.
Dr. Ferguson was speaking at the inaugural national review on NCDs at the Jamaica Conference Centre, in Kingston, on November 16.
The Minister cited the 2009 figures, which indicate that NCDs account for approximately 60 per cent of deaths among men and 75 per cent of deaths among women in Jamaica.
"It is indisputable that chronic non-communicable diseases, such as heart and other circulatory diseases, strokes, cancers, diabetes and respiratory diseases are the leading cause of death in Jamaica. Chronic non-communicable diseases alone cost the Government and the Ministry US$170 million to treat annually," he pointed out.
The Minister reiterated that death and disability from non-communicable diseases can be prevented by addressing the four main lifestyle risk factors, which are physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, tobacco use and harmful use of alcohol.
In this vein, he urged Jamaicans to adopt healthier lifestyle practices in order to achieve the national target of reducing deaths from non-communicable diseases.
"Jamaica is undergoing a negative transition from a traditional diet with a limited range of staple foods towards a high energy diet with more animal protein, saturated fats, sugars and highly processed foods. This unhealthy diet, often consumed away from home as fast foods and as snacks, has resulted in a preponderance of over nutrition and poor nutrition, leading to obesity-a major risk factor and a driving force in the prevalence of NCDs," Dr. Ferguson noted.
He pointed out that persons in low socio economic households bear the brunt of impact, as they rely on convenience food, particularly those associated with diabetes and hypertension.
“It is estimated that at least five per cent of Jamaica's gross domestic product goes towards the treatment of diabetes and hypertension. Women are disproportionately affected as one in four Jamaican women is obese. It therefore means that Jamaican women are at increased risk; moreover, many are the main bread winners and heads of households,” he said.
The Minister added that children also display a "disturbing trend of obesity and related childhood diabetes,” underscoring that curtailing the NCDs epidemic is crucial.
“We are taking a joined up government approach in this regard, including initiatives to provide healthy foods in schools, involving the Ministries of Agriculture and Education, among others," he said.
A non-communicable disease is a medical condition which is non-infectious and non-transmissible between persons. They are referred to as lifestyle diseases, because the majority of these conditions are preventable.
They include: heart disease, stroke, many cancers, asthma, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and respiratory disease.
The objectives of the national review are: to review the performance of the NCDs prevention and control programme for the year 2011-2012; to share best practises for prevention and control of NCDs in Jamaica; and to sensitise stakeholders