Today, citizens of St. Kitts and Nevis join with the rest of the international community to observe World Diabetes Day under the campaign slogan “Diabetes: Protect Our Future”. Though simple in length, the statement is undoubtedly significant in meaning. For it comes at a time when our health, productivity and future development as a small island developing state are threatened by the scourge of chronic non-communicable diseases. According to the World Health Organization, 347 million persons suffer from diabetes globally with 3.2 million deaths attributed each year to this chronic disease. Regrettably, St. Kitts and Nevis has not been spared, for at the end of 2012, there were 1096 registered diabetics in our Federation.
Such startling statistics in a country as small as St. Kitts and Nevis certainly serve as a call for us to strengthen our resolve and intensify the awareness campaign in the fight against this epidemic. The need to do so becomes all the more urgent in a country such as ours where we are not rich in minerals and thus have as our greatest resource, our people. Fortunately, because diabetes is a non-communicable disease as opposed to a transmitted illness, we the people possess within ourselves the individual capacity to significantly reduce the number of deaths and disabilities emanating from this disease. This simple power has been conferred upon us merely by taking greater responsibility and ownership of the lifestyles which we lead. If we are to be successful in doing so, however, then the main risk factors of unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, drug use and alcohol intake must be brought further to the vanguard of our efforts.
In order to tackle these behaviours which tend to form in the very elementary stage of our lives, we must start early and start with our youth. No longer can young people remain distant and disinterested in the campaign against diabetes. No more can they continue to think that they are only in a position of vulnerability if they fall into the category of the elderly. At the moment, there are in excess of 15 persons under the age of 20 registered as diabetics in St. Kitts and Nevis with many other young persons at risk of adding to this statistic. Consequently, as far as our youth and diabetic education are concerned, interest must replace indifference, awareness must replace apathy and healthy homes must replace harmful habits.
That is why on this World Diabetes Day, we urge all Kittitians and Nevisians to participate in the activities planned by the government and various other organizations to observe this important occasion in our Federation. Indeed, we commend those civic bodies such as the Diabetic Association and the Renal Society which have answered the call to serve the needs of the community through their educational programs and healthcare initiatives.
As Youth Ambassadors of the country with specific responsibility for Health and Human Resource Development in the Caribbean Community, we are pleased to join with you in extending our commitment to helping raise awareness of the escalating global health threat posed by diabetes. Let us all move forward to protect our future from the scourge of this disease, not only by saluting those who have done what is necessary to overcome it but pledging our continued support to those who still need assistance in fighting it.