Chief Medical Officer (CMO) in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Sheila Campbell-Forrester, has said that Jamaica could save up to $2.8 billion from the medical costs for treating chronic non-communicable diseases, from pursuing healthier lifestyles.
Speaking at a faith-based organisations workshop, jointly staged by the Ministry and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)/World Health Organization (WHO), at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston, on Thursday (August 27), Dr. Campbell-Forrester pointed out that hypertension and diabetes accounted for significant portions of the $2.8 billion medical costs incurred by the state last year.
In pointing out that the cost for treatment and care continues to increase, she contended that if chronic diseases could be prevented, the expenditure saved could make a significant impact on Jamaica’s quality of life.
Chief Medical Officer in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Sheila Campbell-Forrester (right), speaking with Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)/World Health Organization (WHO) representative in Jamaica, Dr. Ernest Pate, during a workshop on, ‘The Role of the Church and Faith Based Organisations in responding to the Chronic Diseases Epidemic and Promoting Healthy Lifestyles’, jointly staged by the Ministry and PAHO/WHO at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston, on Thursday (August 27).
She also pointed out that with chronic diseases also contributing to low productivity, as a result of absenteeism by workers due to illness, it was even more urgent to address the problem since, as a developing country, low productivity was not something that Jamaica could really afford.
The CMO said that the period between the 1940s and 2005, had seen a shift in the leading causes of death in Jamaica from communicable diseases, such as tuberculosis (TB), syphilis, pneumonia and some heart diseases, to chronic versions, such as cancer, diseases of the respiratory and circulatory systems, accidents and injuries.
“So we see where the chronic non-communicable lifestyle diseases have emerged as the leading causes of mortality and morbidity in Jamaica,” she noted.
Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)/World Health Organization (WHO) representative in Jamaica, Dr. Ernest Pate (at podium), addressing the Ministry of Health/PAHO/WHO workshop on, ‘The Role of the Church and Faith Based Organisations in responding to the Chronic Diseases Epidemic and Promoting Healthy Lifestyles’, at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston on Thursday (August 27). Also pictured is the Ministry’s Director of Disease Prevention and Control, Dr. Sonia Copeland.
Dr. Campbell-Forrester said that Jamaica was, in fact, facing a triple burden of chronic diseases, injuries and communicable diseases being linked to lifestyles and/or environmental influences.
“And we expect that climate change will also add to the risk, if we don’t become better stewards of the environment,” she warned
She also pointed out that countries were currently faced with a global chronic disease epidemic. The global health agenda pursued by the WHO has sought to recognise and address the associated risks, threats, and costs. She, however, stressed the need to proceed with the public health response and interventions in Jamaica with haste.
In addressing how the country could address the challenges associated with chronic diseases, Dr. Campbell-Forrester said Jamaica has been a “strategic forerunner” in this regard, having had a healthy lifestyle strategic plan in place since 2004.
This plan, she explained, aimed to promote a lifestyle which reduced the risk of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, cervical cancer, HIV/AIDS, teenage fertility, as well as the incidence of violence and injuries, while focussing on preventable risk factors.
“The strategies are the six health promotion strategies which look at advocacy, creating alliances, policy and legal framework, empowerment of communities and individuals, creating supportive environments, re-orienting our health services, as well as individual/personal empowerment,” she outlined
She explained that the Ministry focusses on creating healthy environments in schools, and works with the Ministry of Education to empower children, parents, teachers, and canteen operators to make healthy and wise food choices, while promoting exercise.
Dr. Campbell-Forrester said churches and other faith-based organisations are well-placed to lend support to the Ministry’s efforts. She alluded to institutions which several of these stakeholders operate, and the constituents with whom they interfaced, as channels through which they can assist in promoting healthy lifestyles and reducing the prevalence on chronic diseases.
“You are also part of a community, so you have a lot of work to do there. You need to be involved in building the community’s capacity for healthy living through whatever you’re doing,” she said.
Over 70 religious leaders attended the workshop, which was staged as part of the Ministry of Health’s efforts to strengthen the national response to prevent and control chronic diseases, and promote healthy lifestyles by engaging faith-based organisations as partners.
The forum is an action item coming out of the Port-of-Spain Declaration signed by Caribbean Heads of Government in Trinidad in 2007, committing the region to doubling its efforts to fight chronic diseases.