Jamaica’s Health Minister outlines impact of NCDs on the country

ST JAMES, Jamaica (JIS) — Minister of Health, Dr Christopher Tufton says the prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) have been the greatest public health threat to Jamaica’s development for the past 50 years.

Dr Tufton was addressing a University Diabetes Outreach Conference at the Jewel Resort in Runaway Bay, St Ann last Friday.

He pointed out that, globally, 36 million people die from NCDs, including 16 million people who die before the age of 70 years.

“In 2014, the top five causes of death were due to NCDs. Preliminary data also shows that NCDs, specifically diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and chronic respiratory disease account for 12,773 or 68 per cent of all deaths in Jamaica,” Tufton noted.
He added that 34 per cent of these deaths occur between the ages of 30 to 70 years old.

The minister further stated that diabetes is a major public health problem in Jamaica, accounting for 11 per cent of all deaths in persons five years and older in 2014.

“It is the third most common cause of NCD related deaths. More women (62.1 per cent) than men (37.8 per cent) die from diabetes. The prevalence of diabetes is expected to increase, as based on current estimates, levels of overweight and obesity remains high,” Tufton stated.

The minister stressed that diabetes is a serious disease that can cause blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke and lower limb amputation, while adding that it is also a leading cause for dialysis.

Tufton said that the magnitude of the overall NCD burden is propelled by the underlying risk factors – unhealthy diet, tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol and physical inactivity. Meanwhile, Tufton said the Ministry of Health has collaborated with the Diabetes Association of Jamaica, on several initiatives including the Lay Diabetes Education programme, screening for diabetic retinopathy, Life for a Child Programme, among others.

“There is the Caribbean Diabetes Retinopathy project – early detection of eye complications for diabetes and we are strengthening primary health care services whilst working towards universal access to health care,” he informed.

He added that the Health Ministry remains committed to encouraging persons to make an investment in their health.

“The more persons take preventative steps to safeguarding their health such as engaging in physical activity, the less visits they will have to make to health facilities due to these NCDs. This investment in their health will ultimately improve the overall quality of life,” Tufton further explained.

The University of the West Indies Diabetes Outreach Conference was held under the theme ‘Diabetes & the Skin: Be Aware’ and focus was placed on issues surrounding the disease.

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