Medical Officer of Health for St. James, Dr. Marcia Johnson-Campbell, says it is a misconception to think that only elderly persons are susceptible to non-communicable diseases (NCDs), noting that the “facts do suggest otherwise”.
Addressing a Jamaica Information Service (JIS) Think Tank at the agency’s Montego Bay Regional Office on Monday (May 7), Dr. Johnson-Campbell noted that persons of all ages are affected by NCDs.
She said statistics have shown that many deaths attributed to NCDs occur within the prime productive age group of 30 and 69 years.
“Children, adults and the elderly are all vulnerable to the risk factors contributing to NCDs, whether from unhealthy diets, physical inactivity, exposure to tobacco smoke or the harmful use of alcohol,” Dr. Johnson-Campbell said.
She noted that unhealthy diets and a lack of exercise may show up in persons as raised blood pressure, increased blood glucose, elevated blood lipids and obesity.
These, she explained, are called metabolic risk factors that can lead to cardiovascular disease, which is the leading NCD in terms of premature deaths.
“Modifiable behaviours such as tobacco use, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet and the harmful use of alcohol, all increase the risk of NCDs,” she noted.
Dr. Johnson-Campbell said that promoting healthy eating habits, particularly among children, is important in addressing NCDs.
“We have to look at policies as it relates to what our children are eating, whether at school or at home. We have to educate our children on the importance of eating healthy,” she said.
Dr. Johnson-Campbell noted further that monitoring the progress and trends of NCDs and their risk is important for guiding policy and priorities to control the prevalence of the conditions.
“Opportunities are there through our local clinics and pharmacies to get screening and tests. Early detection is very important,” she pointed out.
She noted that “high-impact essential NCD interventions” can be delivered through a primary healthcare approach to strengthen early detection and timely treatment.
She said evidence shows that such interventions are excellent economic investments because, if provided early to patients, they can reduce the need for more expensive treatment.
For her part, Nutritionist Nadean Simmonds-Lewis said the upcoming Move for Health Day on Thursday (May 10) in Sam Sharpe Square, Montego Bay, will place a focus on physical activity and healthy eating.
“We are appealing to everyone to come out and be part of this important event,” she said. “We want our people to be physically fit, even our senior citizens. Never feel you are too old to participate in some form of physical activity,” she said.