Youth Appeal at NCD’s Conference in Trinidad

By Valdeen Shears

What began as a cause has blossomed into a revolution.  A gamut of speakers took to the podium during the recently concluded two day conference on Non Communicable Diseases to highlight the need to get children and adolescents on the agenda. However, despite the learned expertise of professionals, it was the youthful voices of a panel of speakers that really caught the attention of the audience. Their one consensus- to encourage the fight against the factors that create exposure to and being ambassadors of
change while coping with NCDs.

One such person was Krystal Boyea, a young impassioned ambassador, living with Type 1 Diabetes. Born in Barbados, Boyea shared her initial struggles, journey towards acceptance and eventual fight against the disease. From 2011 to date Boyea has committed to using her experience toeducate people and create awareness. Through her work locally and internationally, Boyea has become the recognized spokesperson for diabetes in her native country of Barbados. She was also the past Youth Regional Representative for the North American and Caribbean Region for the Young Leaders Programme of the International Diabetes Federation. Boyea is presently the Federation’s Vice President. Life for Boyea, she admitted, has come a long way. She recalled her spirit of despair and resignation in trying to cope with the disease.

Her life, she said, changed when she decided to make diabetes more than just a disease, but her life’s passion. Boyea, having represented persons coping with diabetes and NCDs and her country, is an active member of the Diabetes Association of Barbados. She touched on the lifestyles aspect of NCDs.

From tear-filled to confident

During her address, Boyea questioned the foods, particularly snacks, being sold to children. Since her shift in focus, Boyea no longer thinks of her condition as a hindrance, but as a catalyst for encouraging change and educating others. The ambitious young woman went from a tear-filled attitude to confidently listing the many avenues she at which she was a representative.

Some of her accomplishments include speaking at the United Nations in New York City, The World Diabetes Congress in Melbourne, Australia and at TEDx. In August last year, Boyea climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with a team of 12 others also living with Type 1 diabetes to raise awareness. Boyea is the 2013 recipient of the Arnot Cato Public Health Scholarship, as well as the Political Leaders Youth Award from the Barbados Labour Party. With all that Boyea has still found time to pursue her Masters in Public Health at UWI.

Another person, even though a couple years younger than Boyea, has displayed just as much ambition and determination in the fight against diabetes and NCDs. George Dove is 15 years-old and at age eight he was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. “It’s the day I will never forget, because it’s the day my life changed forever,” he stated.

Lack of access to pump therapy

Dove spoke of his transition from multiple injections to an insulin pump. It is because of this that he speaks out on the lack of access to pump therapy for children and Continuous Glucose Monitors (CGMs). Dove bravely stated that he has never made the disease hinder his life in any way. In fact, the teenager who also represented Medtronic
Philantrophy, said it has “opened doors” for him.

Dove has been featured on the cover of Business Week in the US, met the Jonas Brothers, had a photo shoot in Geneva, spoken in Brussels, represented JDRF in Parliament and met the HRH the Duchess in Cornwall.
Some highlights of his lobbying include, having campaigned on Capitol Hill, spoken in LA and Minneapolis and winning the Bakken Invitation in Hawaii.

Dove recalled his mother’s anguish over his condition and her wish that she could “take the disease” from him. However, the brave young man said he told her that he was given the disease for a reason.

“Maybe I was given this for a reason and if that reason was to make a difference then that’s what I’m going to do,” Dove told the rapt audience. Getting people’s attention is one trait that Kamila McDonald has certainly
been able to do.

McDonald former Miss Jamaica contestant, Jamaican TV personality and fitness enthusiast, spoke on the topic of behavioural barriers and the creation of motivational triggers for the prevention of obesity in young people.

“It is indisputable that chronic non-communicable diseases are currently the leading cause of death in the Caribbean, costing governments billion of dollars annually. The silent escalating obesity epidemic is linked to most of these diseases with many nations reporting more than half of their population being overweight/obese. Obesity is killing our people, yet as CARICOM nations we have been relatively slow in our response to the dramatic epidemiological shift from infectious to chronic diseases,” she
stated.

McDonald’s delivery focused on identifying specific historical, cultural and societal issues facing the Caribbean and the basis to effectively tackle and respond to them.

Sustainable behaviour

“The objective is to highlight ways in which youth leaders along with policy makers can inspire and motivate drastic, sustainable behaviour change through the effective communication of obesity’s risk and prevention strategies,” noted McDonald, who has committed to being one of the many young the voice and faces in the battle against obesity and NCDs.
While speaking on another topic totally, fellow Jamaican Sharryl Spence held just as much of the audience’s attention as the former beauty queen. In her presentation, “See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil”, Spence spoke out on cigarette smoking and the fight against tobacco use. Her interest on the controversial topic came about through extra -curricular activities at Campion College, Kingston Jamaica, where she became an active
youth advocate against tobacco smoking and the industry.

Under the guidance of her sixth form supervisor, Kathryn Stewart, Spence along with a team of Campion students and members of the Jamaica Cancer Society, the first Kick Butts Day (KBD) came off in March 2010. The success of this event was so remarkable that the student body was driven to petition the Jamaican Government to enact laws against tobacco smoking in
public. It also led to increased distribution of graphic warnings highlighting the dire consequences of smoking.

Spence’s involvement in this venture not only saw her sitting in on Parliamentary hearings, but addressing the leaders of her country. The entire campaign effectively led to move government and the Jamaican Minister of Health, Dr Fenton Ferguson enough to declare a ban on smoking in public spaces as of July 15th, 2013.

Just like Boyea, Dove, McDonald and Spence, many other young persons, are championing the fight against NCDs. Among them at the conference included panel speakers such as Nicole Campos—representative for Plan International Brazil as the Young Health Programme Coordinator,  Marina Hilaire-Bartlett, Executive Director of Population Services International Caribbean Regional Platform(PSI/Caribbean), Mellany Murgor and Dr Duncan Matheka–Kenyan delegates for Young Professionals Chronic Disease Network and Dr Dwi Lestari Pramesti—Faculty of Medicine University of Indonesia.

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