Minister calls on community to tackle diseases

| 11/09/2010

(CNS): On Caribbean Wellness Day the health minister has said that despite medical advantages in our region, it faces the highest rates of chronic disease in the Americas. Mark Scotland said that while we have more knowledge and better testing, chronic illness figures are increasing, especially in childhood obesity and diabetes. He noted, however that these conditions are preventable if people make conscious decisions to live better. He called on parents to make better choices about health and lead by example with how they spent leisure time and the decisions they made in the grocery store.

Mark Scotland’s message:

Caribbean Wellness Day was first celebrated three years ago to promote healthy living and encourage people to develop good health practices. With the theme ‘love that body’, this day places emphasis on national and community level activities that aim to improve the people’s health.

And so, as we celebrate this year’s Caribbean Wellness Day, it is fitting – and imperative – that we pay attention to the pending health crisis that faces our region. Ailments such as hypertension, ischemic heart disease and stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes are the leading causes of premature death in this part of the world. A staggering two of three deaths occurring in persons younger than 70 years results from a chronic disease.

Ironically, even as this region has made great strides in securing better medical care for its citizens, we still find ourselves facing the highest rates of chronic disease in the Americas. We have more knowledge and better testing, but we are still witnessing rapidly increasing chronic illness figures, especially in childhood obesity and diabetes.

Apart from negatively affecting the quality of life of sufferers and their families, chronic diseases impose a huge financial burden on individuals and governments alike. Indeed, according to a CARICOM estimate, the societal costs of diabetes alone in Latin America and the Caribbean amounted to some $53 billion in 2000.

But there is good news: While it is escalating, this chronic disease epidemic is in large part preventable, particularly if we all make conscious decisions to live better.

In this regard, we are fortunate here in Cayman to see a growing partnership between the private and public sector in securing the long-term health of our population. For instance the free health screenings (for diabetes, hypertension and cholesterol) on offer this month, compliments of the Heart Health Centre and the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority.

The Public Health Department will also continue this month with its health awareness campaign, presenting school children with fruit and water at school.

Of course governments should provide good healthcare and support, but the sobering truth is that we are the only ones who can thwart this potentially crippling health emergency. Truly then, the difference does start at home. It begins with the example we set as parents and it flows from the simple choices we make in the supermarket and in pursuing our recreational activities.

My hope therefore is that this Caribbean Wellness Day will inspire you to ‘love that body’ and make at least one positive change in your life. Without question, living healthily is one of the best investments you can possibly make for you and your family. So why wait?


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