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Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, is urging Jamaicans to adopt healthier lifestyle practices in order to achieve the national target of reducing deaths from diabetes and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) by 25 per cent by 2025.

Jamaica and other countries around the world agreed to the target at the annual meeting of health ministers at the World Health Organization (WHO) in May 2012.

"Achieving this will require an investment in a number of interventions from health promotion, early detection, treatment and palliative care, to a serious resolve at the personal and family levels to engage in healthy habits and work together to create supportive environments, including ensuring smoke-free spaces and areas for physical activity,” he said. 

Dr. Ferguson, who was speaking at the National World Diabetes Day meeting at the Courtleigh Hotel in Kingston today (November 14), said diabetes poses a threat to the health and well being of thousands of Jamaicans now and in the foreseeable future.

The Health Minister said all countries, rich and poor, have been affected by the diabetes epidemic, pointing out that some 173,642 Jamaicans over 25 years old and 6,914 youth 15 to 24 years old are estimated to have the disease.

“Diabetes is one of the leading causes of death accounting for 12.9 per cent of all deaths in Jamaica, based on Ministry of Health statistics for 2010,” he said.

Dr. Ferguson said the economic fallout arising from the costs in terms of medical care, both personal and to the state, is significant, adding that the estimated economic burden of diabetes according to a 2001 University of the West Indies (UWI)/CARICOM study is US$221 million per annum.

The Minister said a collaborative approach is needed in order to tackle the scourge of diabetes and build a healthy nation. These include Ministries and related agencies such as Education; Transport, Works and Housing; Youth and Culture; Information; National Security; Agriculture and Fisheries; Trade and Investment; Sports; and Local Government.

In the meantime, he encouraged Jamaicans to support persons living with diabetes, eliminating all forms of discrimination and stigma, so they can lead productive lives.

“Another key step is for individuals to get tested and know their risks, how the disease works and get regular medical check-ups and carry out the treatment plan as prescribed by a doctor,” he added.

The meeting was held under the theme: ‘Diabetes: Protect Our Future’.

WHO estimates that more than 346 million people worldwide have diabetes. Without intervention, the number is likely to more than double by 2030.

World Diabetes Day is celebrated on November 14 to mark the birthday of Frederick Banting who, along with Charles Best was instrumental in the discovery of insulin in 1922, a life saving treatment for diabetic patients.

Diabetes is responsible for 4.6 million deaths a year, with one death every seven seconds. Diabetes is among the top 10 causes of disability, resulting in life-threatening complications such as heart disease, stroke, lower limb amputation and blindness. Fifty per cent of people with diabetes are undiagnosed, and 80 per cent of diabetics live in low and middle income countries.