JIS News

Health and Environment Minister, Rudyard Spencer, is stressing the need for a collaborative approach to curtailing the spread of chronic non-communicable diseases.
He pointed out that Jamaica currently faces the threat of an “overwhelming epidemic” of diseases, such as cancer, diabetes and hypertension, noting that while not “dramatic and visible” as communicable diseases, they had a long chain of development. This, he added, resulted from “subtle and insidious processes” involving physical, social, economic, cultural, dietary and psychological factors.
Speaking at a Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) National Policy Dialogue on Non-Communicable Disease Prevention and Control at the Hilton Kingston Hotel on June 25, Mr. Spencer noted that chronic diseases figured in deaths, illness, and disabilities among individuals in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean.
“Data show that more than 50 per cent of deaths occurring in Jamaica are attributable to the chronic diseases, accounting for five of the top 10 leading causes of death. About 66 per cent of the women and 32 per cent of the men are classified as overweight, a risk factor for the development of several chronic diseases,” the Minister informed.
He further said that risk factors were also becoming very worrying among adolescents, with 11 per cent of 10 to 15 year olds, and 20 per cent of the 15 to 19 year olds being classified as overweight. The Minister cited physical inactivity as one contributing factor, and lamented that 40 per cent of Jamaicans between 15 to 74 years old were either not sufficiently involved in any significant form of exercise, or were totally inactive.
To this end, Mr. Spencer said the Ministry, with its mandate to lead the policy direction towards a healthier nation, was committed and determined to tackling chronic non-communicable diseases and their risk factors, utilizing all of the resources at its disposal.
He pointed out that initiatives were being pursued, which included: increased monitoring at the health centre and hospital levels to eventually evolve into a national surveillance system; collation of information and determinants on the impact of chronic diseases, identifying specific risk factors; formulation and implementation of programmes and tracking trends.
“The remedy, therefore, will be aimed at behaviour information, modification, change, and empowering individuals and communities to make healthier choices in their everyday lives, and promoting the kinds of settings that will enhance the creation and maintenance of healthier lifestyles,” Mr. Spencer said.
This, he pointed out, includes development of healthy zones to facilitate safe, wholesome and physical activity, incorporating recreation and social interaction. He advised that one such is scheduled to be launched in Longville Park, Clarendon in July.
The Minister said partnerships were being developed with various stakeholders in government and civil society.
“We are looking towards (among other things) strengthening our collaboration with agriculture in addressing the dietary aspect of the chronic disease epidemic. Consumer behaviour and food choices will need to be addressed through better labelling of foods, (and) testing and monitoring to ensure compliance and accuracy of labelling,” Mr. Spencer explained.

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