Many persons are shocked when the statistics on non-communicable diseases are quoted, but at the same time appear “lulled into a sense of complacency on the basis that they may not be included in the current statistics”.
Minister of Health Donville Inniss made this observation yesterday evening while delivering the feature address at the opening ceremony of the East Caribbean Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists’ Health Summit 2012, being held at Hilton Barbados.
This is the first time the week-long summit is being held in the Caribbean and was hailed by the minister as a welcomed step in educating and fostering public awareness of the need to live healthy lifestyles while reducing the demand on health care systems.
“We can all play fast and loose with our health and hope to be saved by the doctors and God almighty. Or, we can stop and take stock of our lifestyles and seek to prevent the onset of a major illness. There are too many people in this society who feel that they can eat and drink whatever they like, don’t exercise, smoke, and generally lead a lazy and uncaring lifestyle, with the view that if they get sick, the Government will have the nurses, doctors, medicines and equipment to save your life.
“Well, we will try our best, but it will not always work out in your favour. Sometimes your irresponsible behaviour may only allow you enough breath to say that you hope that when the roll is called up yonder you will be there,” Inniss stated.
He noted that the Caribbean was spending in excess of $1 billion a year on the diagnosis and treatment of NCDs but was still challenged in reducing the number of persons afflicted and affected.
“It is a battle that we will not run away from. It is a battle of the minds as well; we must use education as the weapon, or rather the tool, to beat these illnesses to the ground and your church is extremely influential in this battle.
We will never build enough hospitals, spend enough money in medications, buy expensive equipment or hire enough health care workers to solve this problem of NCDs in Barbados and the wider Caribbean. It is going to take the collective will of our societies and the willpower of each individual to make a major difference,” he remarked.
The minister commended the Seventh-Day Adventist Church for its perseverance and commitment to healthy lifestyles and prevention and assured Barbadians that the Ministry of Health would continue to be patient-centred, technologically driven, accessible, affordable and supportive of partnerships with health NGOs, including the church.
He listed a number of initiatives on the agenda of the ministry for action: legislation to ban indiscriminate burning of refuse; amendments to the Health Services Act to clearly define and regulate substance abuse treatment facilities; legislation regarding derelict properties and unkempt open lots; a patient charter for the public health care system; a more evidence-based approach to health care; and, improved research facilities.