PM Harris, Caricom’s Lead Health Spokesman, Stresses Role of Education In Spurring Lifestyle Changes for NCD Reduction

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, SEPTEMBER 25TH, 2016 (PRESS SEC) – Addressing the United Nations General Assembly yesterday, Saturday, September 24th, Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris said that, “It is essential that more is invested in education to promote healthier lives and healthier food choices, as well as to help people make the right lifestyle choices, because several of these non-communicable diseases are preventable.”

The Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis is lead spokesman for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) on Human Resources, Health and HIV/AIDS.

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are non-infectious or non-transmissible diseases as opposed to communicable, infectious or transmissible diseases, such as Influenza (also known as the flu) and HIV/AIDS.

NCDs are categorized into four main types, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). They are cardiovascular diseases (like heart attacks and stroke), cancers, chronic respiratory diseases (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma) and diabetes.

A July 1st, 2016 press release issued by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) based in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, disclosed that, “Depending on the study and country, diabetes and hypertension alone can account for 3-8% negative impact on the Gross Domestic Product, yet these problems are almost entirely preventable.”

The press release quoted Dr. C. James Hospedales, Executive Director of CARPHA, as saying: “Making the choice to invest in health promotion and disease prevention is one definite solution in the creation of healthy societies and economies, especially as many of these ailments are completely preventable through a combination of public policies, consumer education, and health services strengthening.”

The CARICOM Communiqué issued after the 37th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government (July 4th – 6th, 2016) noted that, “As the Tenth Anniversary of the historic Port-of-Spain Declaration ‘Uniting to fight the Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs)’ draws near, the Heads of Government recognised the progress made in addressing the issue. They acknowledged, however, that progress was variable and agreed to adopt a more holistic approach. In this regard, they pledged to address issues such as the banning of smoking in public places; trade related measures; banning advertisement of potentially harmful foods which specifically target children; and elevating taxes on foods high in sugar, salt and trans-fats.”

The Port-of-Spain Declaration of September 15th, 2007 was made at a special Regional Summit on Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) held in the capital city of Trinidad and Tobago. The CARICOM Heads of Government declared the second Saturday in September “Caribbean Wellness Day” to commemorate that landmark summit.

The resolution on NCDs passed by the U.N. General Assembly on September 20th, 2011 cited the Port-of-Spain Declaration. The U.N. resolution titled Political Declaration of the High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases acknowledges the need to “reduce risk factors and create health promoting environments” through multisectoral public policies, as well as health education and literacy initiatives, among other strategies.

“The summit in September [2011] in New York is our chance to broker an international commitment that puts non-communicable diseases high on the development agenda, where they belong.”
Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General
was quoted back then

A Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization press release issued on September 20th, 2011 titled Caribbean Leaders Praised for Early Action on Non-Communicable Diseases reported that, “The Caribbean is the subregion in the Americas that has been most heavily affected by the rising epidemic of NCDs such as cancer, heart disease, chronic respiratory illness, and diabetes. NCDs account for nearly 50 percent of disability-adjusted life years lost in the Caribbean, and the economic impact of these diseases threatens the development of the region’s small economies.”

Key Facts on Non-Communication Diseases (Source: WHO)

– Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) kill 38 million people each year.

– Almost three quarters of NCD deaths – 28 million – occur in low- and middle-income countries.

– Sixteen million NCD deaths occur before the age of 70; 82% of these “premature” deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries.

– Cardiovascular diseases account for most NCD deaths, or 17.5 million people annually, followed by cancers (8.2 million), respiratory diseases (4 million), and diabetes (1.5 million).

– These 4 groups of diseases account for 82% of all NCD deaths.

– Tobacco use, physical inactivity, the harmful use of alcohol and unhealthy diets all increase the risk of dying from an NCD.

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