With the cost of treating Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) spiraling out of control, Minister of Health John Boyce today warned that Barbados had now reached the stage where restrictions would have to be placed on certain food imports.
Addressing a regional NCD forum, Boyce did not provide any details on the plan, but he said one of the biggest issues facing Government was the quality of foods coming into the island.
The Minister of Health also pointed out that Barbados was not the only country having problems controlling the rate of NCDs, and that some had already gone the route of restricting imports.
“If we can get our children to eat healthy, if we can get parents to ensure that the diets provided to children are healthy, if we can get our manufacturers and importers to import healthy diets, we would have gone a long way in starting to shape the patterns which we would love to see evolve with the treatment and fight against NCDs,” Boyce said.
Additionally, with the 2015 Budget less than two weeks away, the Minister said he felt the time had come for taxation and legislation to be implemented to help in the fight against NCDs.
“I know that the private sector has had discussions with the Minister of Finance and the Ministry of Finance as they prepare the 2015 Budget which will be delivered on the 2015 of June. It is time that Barbados looks at taxation maybe and legislation to tackle even more strenuously the question of the causes of NCDs,” Boyce suggested.
He also cautioned players in both the alcohol and tobacco industries of the need to work more closely with Government to help reduce the number of NCD cases while stating that the Ministry of Health was leading the charge of looking at the country’s student population in a very serious way.
“I believe, and we believe, that the battle against NCDs is an investment. The team at the Ministry often refers to it as something, which we as a country, will reap the benefits from maybe ten years from now,” he told participants of this morning’s Caribbean NCD Private Sector Forum, which was held at the Courtyard Marriott Hotel.
The Minister of Health also insisted that while most Barbadians still obtained treatment at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, it meant that the state owned health care institution bore the brunt of the financial burden.
However, Boyce said all of the various stakeholders needed to work together if the fight against NCDs was to be a successful one.
“If we can prevent the NCD from occurring in the first place then we would have done a lot of good work. The [health] bill eventually sits at our feet, and that bill eventually lands more often than not at the QEH where Barbadians obtain health care. But that bill continues to spiral out of control as we try to contain and to treat the effects of NCDs,” the Minister complained.