Minister of State Phipps Encourages “Top Up” of Preventative Health at Opening of Cancer Unit‏

Basseterre, St. Kitts, December 06, 2016 (SKNIS): During the opening of the new Oncology Unit at the Joseph N. France (JNF) General Hospital this morning (December 12), Senator and Minister of State responsible for Health, Honourable Wendy Phipps, said that there was a need to “top up” the public awareness aspect of the health sector to positively impact preventative methods.

 “At the same time that we are offering this new service, we recognize the imperative of ensuring that we “top up” our health promotion and health education efforts so that we begin to reverse the statistics that we are seeing so that we will not continuously have to be investing in reactive approaches to cancer but also in preventative ones by education, dietary changes, lifestyle changes, recognizing of course that cancers are often the result of hereditary factors or environmental factors, some of which we have no control over,” Minister Phipps said.  “But I would much rather see us as a people get to the point where we spend most of our resources on health promotion and health education and the preservation of a high quality of life than in salvaging or desperately trying to save lives after the fact.”

 Along the same vein of change, Minister of State Phipps outlined that the statistics demonstrated that there was need for improvement.

 “Hopefully, today witnesses the dawning of a new era in the delivery of healthcare and in our response to Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in St. Kitts and Nevis,” she said.  “Recognizing of course that 83 percent of our deaths in St. Kitts and Nevis are due to chronic non-communicable diseases and further recognizing that out of that 83 percent of our death rate, cancer deaths represents 45.1 percent, which is almost 50 percent of the NCD deaths.  By extension, we recognize that we do have a lot of work to do locally and regionally as it relates to our response to non-communicable diseases.”

 Local responses to NCDS were recognized as the opening of the Oncology Unit, increased budgetary allocations to envelope the procurement of oncology drugs largely through the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) pool procurement on pharmaceuticals and the Pan American Health Organsisation (PAHO) pool procurement system.

 Minister Phipps identified the urgency of arresting the increase in NCDs because of the small population of the Federation.

 “When we do not have a healthy population, we suffer,” she said. “We suffer because we are only 50,000 people and of that 50,000 people, we only have about 23,000 of us who make up the active labour pool.  And if we are continuing to suffer from NCDs or looking after persons with NCDs our competitive advantage as a country goes down the tubes because it then means that the only frontier left that we have to be competing with the rest of the world would be our human resources.  And if our human resources in the prime of their lives would be suffering from non-communicable diseases, other issues like HIV and so forth then it means that we cannot compete with that best resource that we are banking on.”

 Identified private sector partners who contributed to the establishment of the Oncology Unit, included philanthropist Mickey Weintraub, Scot and Connie James of ATime4Us Foundation, Essence of Hope, Reach for Recovery, First Caribbean’s Walk for the Cure and the Bank of Nova Scotia.

 Next year, St. Kitts and Nevis will be joining other CARICOM member-states in launching the 10 Anniversary of the Port of Spain declaration on NCDs.

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