JIS News

Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon Christopher Tufton, says that the crisis of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) must be seen as an economic problem and a challenge for development more broadly.

He said that the household burden of NCDs has pushed a significant number of people globally into poverty, noting that it has also affected labour productivity and the earning and saving potential of many Jamaicans.

“Estimates have shown that the economic impact of NCDs in Jamaica, including mental-health conditions, will lead to a lost output of US$17.2 billion over the next 15 years,” he noted.

Dr. Tufton was speaking at the Ministry’s NCD Programme Review Conference held recently in Montego Bay, where he highlighted the need to urgently address the chronic disease crisis.

The Minister said that a healthy population with greater longevity can lead to increases in the country’s national saving rates.

He argued that a healthy people have a greater incentive and potential to save, noting that the East Asian economic success is partly attributed to this critical factor.

The Minister said that tackling NCDs is even more imperative, given the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on the health outcomes of people with these conditions.

“There is evidence showing that obesity, for example, increases the risk of becoming severely ill from COVID-19, and that people with diabetes are up to three times more likely to have severe symptoms or die from COVID-19,” he pointed out.

Dr. Tufton cited the most recent Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey (JHLS III), which revealed that one in three Jamaicans has hypertension, one in two is overweight or obese, and one in eight has diabetes.

The Minister contended that this points to an NCD crisis and asserted that “as a matter of urgency, we must drive the NCD agenda forward… we must challenge systems and approaches that do not yield results and be willing to think outside the box.”

The Minister challenged the “gathering of medical minds and various associated fields and specialties” at the three-day conference to generate ideas and commitments that will strengthen the country’s efforts in fighting the persistent crisis of NCDs through multi-disciplinary lens.

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