T&T: Health Ministry receives loan to fight non-communicable diseases

By Marlene Augustine
THE Ministry of Health is expected to spend US$48.4 million to deal with non-communicable diseases over the next five years. These include diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol.

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh, at the launch of the National Strategic Plan for the prevention and control of non-communicable disease, said the money was acquired through a loan from the Inter- American Development Bank (IDB). The launch was held at the Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre on Wednesday.

Saying the population was “too sedentary,” Deyalsingh said, “People must not wake up in the morning, take their sugar and hypertension pill and then sit down for the rest of the day. We have to get the country moving. A significant part is going to be bringing outdoor gym equipment to be used by the population and placed in strategic areas. A significant part of the loan is going to be used for retraining and re-equipping our primary health response.” He continued, “We want to take our population away from secondary hospitals and tertiary hospitals and put them back into their community settings.” Deyalsingh said everything the ministry will be doing from now on has to be rebranded with the theme, “Healthy Me, Healthy You, Healthy TT”.

He said the ministry is working on a national physical activity plan targeting the elderly and children, and considering a television show on healthy cooking alternatives for families.

IDB’s chief operations officer Carina Cockburn said 80 percent of deaths in this country are attributed to non-communicable diseases and more than 50 percent of the population aged 15 to 64 are overweight or obese. “Rates in school children aged 5 to 18 years increased from 11 percent in 1999 to 23 percent in 2009 – a 109 percent increase,” Cockburn said.

“Over the same 10-year period, obesity in children increased by 400 percent from 2.4 percent to 12.5 percent. Similarly, since 1980, the prevalence of diabetes in TT has increased by 350 percent from four percent to current estimates of 14.5 percent.” She continued, “It is not only the quantum of these figures that is alarming but the rapid increase in the prevalence of these issues among the population.” Cockburn said the IDB is very excited about the potential benefits of this health project.

“As we and our colleagues in the Ministry of Health are aware, if we really want to address non-communicable diseases in a meaningful way, it cannot be business as usual. It will take the combined efforts of many stakeholders to be successful.

We will have to continue to be bold and innovative, think outside of the box and move swiftly in our execution in order to realise our objectives.” (Trinidad Newsday)

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