Jamaica joins the rest of the international community to observe World Diabetes Day this year, under the theme “Diabetes: Protect Our Future”. This is an important message and comes at a time in which our health, productivity and development are threatened by the epidemic of non-communicable diseases including diabetes. NCDs kill 36 million persons each year of which 4% of the deaths are due to diabetes. Globally, the World Health Organization estimates that the number of people with diabetes could double to 360 million by 2030 with deaths associated with the disease to increase by more than 50% by 2020.
Jamaica has not been spared from this epidemic with 173,642 Jamaicans over 25 years old and 6,914 youths 15-24 years old estimated to have diabetes. Diabetes is one of the leading causes of death accounting for 12.9% of all deaths in Jamaica. Yet, 80% of type II diabetes is preventable. Death and disability from diabetes and non-communicable diseases can be prevented by addressing the four main lifestyle risk factors which are physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, tobacco use and harmful use of alcohol. Several National surveys show that these risk factors continue to increase and spread throughout the Jamaican population.
In order tackle these behaviours, we must start early, and target children and youth as behaviours are formed early in life. Let us start with ourselves and our families in engaging in these healthy habits and work together to create supportive environments, for example smoke free spaces, and areas for physical activity. Many of us know persons living with diabetes or ourselves have diabetes. We must also support persons living with this disease so they can lead productive lives.
One of the first steps to prevent diabetes is to get tested and know your risk, then know how the disease works, examine your lifestyle and make the necessary changes. If you already have diabetes, in addition to engaging in healthy habits, you should ensure you visit your doctor for regular check-ups and carry out the treatment plan as prescribed by your doctor.
The Ministry continues to take steps to reduce the effects of diabetes and its debilitating complications on the lives of individuals and their families. Efforts have been focused on educating the public about measures to help prevent the onset of as well as to screen for and manage the disease.
In May 2012, Jamaica and the rest of the World answered the call to act to reduce death from diabetes and other NCDs by 25% by 2025. I urge everyone to use this year’s World Diabetes Day and beyond to work with the Ministry of Health to achieve this target by making a change for their health, the health of their family and their community. Let’s all help to protect our future and that of our children by joining the fight against diabetes and other non-communicable diseases.
Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, DDS, MP
Minster of Health