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    Story Highlights

    • As Jamaica prepares for the Zika virus (ZikV), Director of Health Promotion and Protection in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Sonia Copeland, is urging people living with non-communicable diseases (NCDs) to be particularly vigilant.
    • Dr. Copeland stressed that sustained interventions with respect to NCDs is important and lauded the HFJ for its dedication to public education.
    • Throughout Heart Month, the HFJ will be hosting mobile screenings for heart disease, plaza promotions, a medical symposium, outside broadcasts and a ‘Run for Your Heart’ event.

    As Jamaica prepares for the Zika virus (ZikV), Director of Health Promotion and Protection in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Sonia Copeland, is urging people living with non-communicable diseases (NCDs) to be particularly vigilant.

    Dr. Copeland pointed out that persons with NCDs, such as hypertension, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases and cancers, are at higher risk for complications and severe symptoms from ZikV.

    Dr. Copeland was speaking on behalf of Portfolio Minister, Hon. Horace Dalley, at the launch of the Heart Foundation of Jamaica’s (HFJ) Heart Month on Tuesday

    (January 26), at the Spanish Court Hotel, New Kingston.

    Heart Month is being observed in February under the theme: ‘Obesity, A Weighty Matter’.

    Dr. Copeland noted that this year’s observance is timely, as it “comes at a time when particular focus needs to be placed on the importance of observing a healthy lifestyle, as a result of the advancing threat of the Zika virus.”

    She welcomed the focus on obesity, and pointed to the need for increased emphasis on childhood obesity which, she said, is as urgent as adulthood obesity.

    Citing the 2014-2019 Regional Plan of Action for Promoting Healthy Weights in the Caribbean, developed by the Caribbean Public Agency, Dr. Copeland said that at least one in five children are carrying unhealthy weight and are at risk of developing NCDs later in life.

    “These are very worrying indicators of their future health that we will eventually have to face if we do not take action now. We know that childhood obesity will most likely persist into adult obesity which leads to the NCDs,” she said.

    Dr. Copeland stressed that sustained interventions with respect to NCDs is important and lauded the HFJ for its dedication to public education.

    Chair of the HFJ and Consultant Cardiologist, Dr. Andrene Chung, said the theme emphasises the importance of sensitising Jamaicans about the health risks associated with obesity.

    “It really is important for us to consider obesity and overweight because it has an important role to play in the risk for cardiovascular diseases,” she said.

    Dr. Chung said research indicates that in Jamaica, there are increasing levels of obesity and decreasing levels of physical activity.

    She said the Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey (2007-2008) showed that 65 per cent of women and 38 per cent of men were considered to be overweight. The level of low physical activity was 16 per cent in men and 43 per cent in women.

    In the Caribbean, five times as many people die from NCDs than from all other illnesses combined and the four leading causes of death in the region, according to a 2000 study, were heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes.

    Dr. Chung stresses that these illnesses are caused by unhealthy eating habits, lack of physical activity, obesity, excessive tobacco and alcohol use and inadequate utilisation of preventative health services.

    Throughout Heart Month, the HFJ will be hosting mobile screenings for heart disease, plaza promotions, a medical symposium, outside broadcasts and a ‘Run for Your Heart’ event.

    There will also be a public education campaign to provide information on NCDs and promote healthy lifestyle choices.