Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, says there needs to be a multi-faceted approach to fighting the epidemic of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Jamaica, treatment of which is costing the government over US$170 million annually.
He was speaking at the launch of Caribbean Wellness Day 2012 on September 3 at the Ministry’s downtown Kingston offices.
Dr. Ferguson said that chronic conditions, such as heart and other circulatory diseases, strokes, cancers, diabetes, and respiratory diseases, are the leading cause of death in Jamaica, and statistics from the Ministry reveal that in 2009, NCDs accounted for the deaths of approximately 60 per cent of men and 75 per cent of women. "This is more than what was recorded as a result of motor vehicle accidents," the Minister stated.
He said that the epidemic must not be allowed to take over "our lives and communities, but must be reversed by consistently practicing a healthy lifestyle." This includes healthy eating, regular physical activity, no smoking, responsible consumption of alcohol and safe sexual practices.
Dr. Ferguson said that the Government is committed to fighting the epidemic on an island-wide scale, and as such, has formed a National NCD Committee, which comprises representatives from all Ministries, several non-governmental organisations (NGOs), faith-based organisations, academia and the private sector.
Caribbean Wellness Day, to be observed on September 8 under the theme: 'Healthy Schools make Healthy Communities that Build Healthy Countries,' will focus on promoting healthy lifestyle in schools. It is being organised in partnership with the Ministry of Education and the National Health Fund (NHF).
Education Minister, Rev. the Hon. Ronald Thwaites, lauded the focus on schools, stating that it is important that Jamaicans are encouraged and taught how to lead a healthy lifestyle from an early age.
“I invite you to carry the wellness programme into all 1,100 plus public schools in this country. We have some 3,000 basic schools, which need at that most formative level, the introduction of concepts of wellness and healthy lifestyle – of correct diet, exercise, and of wholesome living, which seem to elude so many,” he remarked.
The observance of ‘Caribbean Wellness Day’ came out of a landmark summit held in Trinidad and Tobago in September 2007, which saw Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads of Government “uniting to stop the epidemic” of NCDs.
Caribbean Wellness Day is observed annually on the second Saturday in September, and showcases national and community level activities to promote healthy living and encourage residents to develop good health practices.