One of the island’s largest trade unions says it is extremely concerned about the effect poor health practices are having on the local economy and it wants an intervention at the pre-school level.
Assistant General Secretary at the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) Orlando Gabby Scott said while he could not provide figures on how much companies are losing as a result of non-communicable diseases, he’s aware that those “afflicted” by such illnesses would incur “missed days at work and reduced performance” which then lead to loss of productivity.
“Having examined the tremendous impact of NCDs on the physical health of our labour force and our community as well as our economy, it behoves us in Barbados to start our preventative programmes at the level of our schools, and perhaps at the preschool level,” Scott recommended.
He was addressing the official launch of the Pharma Wellness International Inc. Information Technology platform, at the Barbados Diabetes Foundation on Monday.
The new online platform allows residents to receive and store their biometric data and other relevant information on their smartphones and computers instead of a booklet and helps them keep track of medical conditions.
Among other things, it is hoped that the digital platform will help residents to better fight the scourge of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
Pointing to a 2007 US study, Scott said that survey estimated that the cumulative losses associated with chronic diseases totalled a startling US$1 trillion in 2003, compared with the US$277 billion spent on direct healthcare expenditure.
The union official called on local authorities to improve their data collection and “to have better and up-to-date reporting [on] our situation and perhaps those who should take notice, would take notice”.
“There is absolutely no doubt that we need to make radical changes with regard to our eating habits, particularly at the childhood level, where habits good or bad start,” he said, while calling on Barbadians to support the Health Caribbean Coalition’s childhood obesity prevention online petition which is part of a campaign to reduce childhood obesity.
“The human and [financial] costs of NCDs are staggering and we must engage partnerships with like organizations at home and regionally if we are to gain any successes,” said Scott.
Meanwhile, Chief Executive Officer of the Endocrine Centre Inc Dr Carlisle Goddard said based on data collected from companies under the Pharma International Wellness programme up to 2014, approximately one in every eight people in Barbados had diabetes.
He said it was also discovered that “at least a third of the population” was predisposed to diabetes.
“The good news is that by the time we finished, [that figure was lower], which meant that intervention methods used changed the risk factors of those people,” said Goddard, who also called on Barbadians to change their eating habits.
He added that the data collected showed that there were a number of people who had diabetes but had no idea until the time of intervention.
“There are many persons who have diabetes who don’t even realise they have [it]. That is the biggest problem we find when it comes to chronic diseases; a lot of people who have diseases or disorders don’t know that they do,” he said. (MM)