Health Minister Emphasises Need to Curtail the Growth of Diabetes

KINGSTON — Health Minister, Hon. Rudyard Spencer, has underscored the need for greater effort in curtailing the growing prevalence of diabetes, in order to prevent it from developing into a severe uncontrollable disease.

In a message delivered by Chief Medical Officer, Ministry of Health, Dr. Eva Lewis-Fuller, at a health and wellness power breakfast in Kingston, on November 15, Mr. Spencer voiced particular concern about the disproportionate number of Jamaican women affected by diabetes, compared to men.

"When we disaggregate our own data from the last survey done in 2008, we saw that there was a 9.3 per cent prevalence of diabetes among women, 15  to 74 years old, compared with 6.4 per cent among men. Why is there this disproportionate burden of diabetes among women? This is the question we are asking. And it really begs further studies and further analysis, which we will be doing,” the Minister informed. 

Another worrying development highlighted by Mr. Spencer is the increasing prevalence of diabetes among children and young people. He argued that diabetes could no longer be regarded as “old people disease,” because young people are being affected, particularly Type II, and cited obesity and reduced physical activity as two main factors influencing the prevalence.

"The data that we collect show that our women have a higher prevalence of obesity than men, and that they are less (inclined) than men, in terms of physical activity. Children are becoming more obese at an early age (and) they are becoming less active. Many of them only exercise the thumb, which they use to change the channels on the cable television, and that is not enough physical activity,” the Minister said.                 

"So, we need to get our children up and out of the couch, outside to play. Sometimes it’s difficult finding safe places to play, but they must get more physical activity.  They must shed some of that weight and get more to their ideal weight, because we can’t continue to use three per cent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on diabetes, which is what it is costing the government,” he pointed out.

Highlighting the burden which diabetes places on Jamaica’s health care system, Mr. Spencer pointed to data which showed that in 2006, some 15,000 persons were discharged from public hospitals and other health facilities, after being treated for diabetes. Additionally, he said the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that, globally, the number of people living with diabetes could double by the year 2030, and the deaths associated with the illness could increase by over 50 per cent within 10 years.

The Minister urged that persons desist from smoking and engaging in alcohol abuse and, instead, resort to healthy diets characterised by increased proportions of fruits and vegetables, and less fatty foods.

"We need more of that. Our studies are showing that we do not have enough fruits and vegetables, and that we love to fry our foods and to have that floating in oil. We have  to change that at a very early stage in our children’s lives, because it is at that stage that they develop the taste for these oily foods. So, we have to inculcate those healthy habits in our children, from the word go,” Mr. Spencer emphasised.

"After six months of exclusive breast feeding, the complementary feeds must be healthy purees of vegetables and fruits, and then on to the proteins and the carbohydrates, without the excessive oil," the Minister added.

The breakfast was hosted by the University of Technology (UTech) at the institution’s Old Hope Road campus.


By Douglas Mcintosh, JIS Reporter

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