Wednesday, 28 August 2013

NCDs causing many deaths in the region

THE four major non-communicable diseases – cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease and cancers – are responsible for 65 per cent of all the deaths within the Caribbean region.

Dr. James Hospedales, Executive Director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) made that disclosure while speaking on the topic of ‘NCDs and Sustainable Development – Inextricable Linkages’ during a breakfast panel discussion held on Tuesday under the theme ‘Towards Sustainable Development of SIDS: Addressing the Threat of Non-communicable Diseases’ at the Hilton Hotel. The panel discussion was held as one of the side events of the Inter-regional Preparatory Meetings for the Third International Conference on SIDS which is underway in Barbados.

Dr. Hospedales added that those four diseases are driven by four common risk factors – high levels of alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, tobacco and poor diets. Together, he said the four diseases and risk factors as referred to by the World Health Organisation (WHO) are the ‘4x4’.

“…When in the Americas we looked at this, we felt there was a need to add 4x4 plus obesity, because our region of the Americas is fattest of the six WHO regions – nothing to be proud of. And there are a lot of things related to this [such as] mental health problems, depression, a lot of arthritis, dementia…So all is not well in paradise,” he said.

The CARPHA head noted that the Caribbean has some of the highest rates of diabetes in the world, which result in heart disease, renal failure and amputations. He added that apart from those who are obese, about 40 per cent of Caribbean people are living with some chronic type of NCD.

As such, he lamented that the risks are widespread and they are getting worse. In terms of diabetes in the Caribbean, he noted that about one in five to ten adults will have the disease and, with respect to hypertension, the figure is one in three to five adults. Moreover, he revealed that 20 to 35 per cent of children and adolescents are now overweight or obese and that figure, he said has tripled in the last 20 to 25 years.

“So something profound has happened in our countries in that regard. It is one thing if a middle age person puts on some weight and gets a big belly; it is another when it’s the children, because we have to protect them…It is a very high chance it is going to stay obese as an adult and this then is not just an NCD problem. It is connected to mental health issues, it is connected to employability and jobs, it is connected to stigma and discrimination,” he added. (JRT)

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