Only seven Caribbean countries are on course to achieve the global target set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for reducing the number of deaths caused by non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
And, more lamentably, Barbados is not one of them.
This was revealed here Tuesday by Director of the George Alleyne Chronic Disease Research Centre of the University of the West Indies Dr Alafia Samuels.
Addressing a sub-regional workshop at the Accra Beach Hotel this morning, Dr Samuels reported that only the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, Grenada, Guyana, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Turks and Caicos Islands were on course to reduce their total number of NCDs by 25 per cent by 2025, while the rate of mortality was on the rise in other countries.
“So there are actually countries in the Caribbean where the mortality rate is increasing. In most countries it is decreasing, but there are a couple where it is increasing. And major contributors to these disparities have been trends in stroke and ischaemic heart disease and diabetes,” Dr Samuels said.
In the case of Barbados, she said while the country was doing a lot to try to tackle the epidemic, its burden from NCDs was very high.
“A recent PhD study by one of our colleagues has shown that there has been some reduction in Barbados but actually the risk factors in Barbados are pushing the rates up, and it is the medication and the treatments that are trying to bring it down.
“So Barbados has a huge problem with risk factors, especially obesity and physical inactivity, unhealthy diets, promotion of unhealthy diets, and that’s the reason why Barbados is not on track,” she said.
However, Dr Samuels said Barbados was ahead of its regional neighbours in implementing 77 per cent of the NCD goals, followed by Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and the Bahamas. The lowest compliers are the smaller islands, and Haiti.
She said the main reason for this disparity was a lack of much-needed resources in the majority of the smaller islands.
“So in larger countries you’ll have an NCD unit, you’ll have two or three staff, and so on and so forth. In countries like Anguilla and Montserrat and Turks and Caicos, you may have ten per cent of one person every other week looking at NCDs and yet they have the same commitments to report as everybody else, including Germany and Nigeria and . . . huge countries and tiny countries have the same requirements to report; they do not have the resources, they do not have the capacity to do so,” she explained.
Dr Samuels told a sub-regional workshop on alcohol, tobacco and sugar-sweetened beverages taxation that no country had fully implemented the Port of Spain declaration, which was signed by Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member states in Trinidad in 2007 committing them to action to combat the NCD epidemic, with half of the CARICOM member states reaching fewer than half of the targets set.
“The highest implementers have been areas like Caribbean Wellness Day and risk factor surveillance, and that’s because these areas have had support from regional levels in toolkits and so on, to help countries, especially the smaller countries, to overcome that hurdle of not having internal capacity to develop all of these mechanisms for themselves,” she said.
She noted that the poorest performers have been in the areas of diet, and a failure to implement school programmes. She added that the region has also fallen short in communicating the message of the importance of healthy lifestyles.