Taxpayers are being afforded a fresh opportunity to ease the impact of health care on their pockets.
Minister in the Ministry of Finance Ryan Straughn announced plans to ramp up a health and wellness sensitization programme within the coming weeks that would tie the cost of health care to the lifestyles of residents.
Straughn said this programme is designed to create a healthier Barbados and get the entire population involved in better managing what money comes out of their pay packets.
He noted that at the same time, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) would have to review the services it is offering while benefiting from the Health Care Levy which came into effect last October.
“While that is to give a level of additional support to the QEH, they have to go through, in a sense, a review of what they are offering, so that obviously, a determination can be made as to the value-for-money proposition that the taxpayer is getting,” the minister told Barbados TODAY.
He said it is hoped that this sensitization initiative would help weaken the firm grip which non-communicable diseases currently have on Barbadians.
“Notwithstanding the non-communicable diseases and the very high concentration that exists in the population…and there are obviously costs associated with that…and much of the cost is driven, to a large degree by lifestyle of persons. That’s why there has been much emphasis on the wellness part,” Straughn stated.
“Obviously, if you can prevent, or at least slow down the onset of these non-communicable diseases, that would then have implications for the associated costs,” he added, noting that the Ministry of Health intends to roll out programmes specifically focused on wellness.
He emphasized that this initiative is not a flash-in-the-pan undertaking, but must be sustainable.
“It is not an overnight thing, but we are talking about ensuring that people are able to live or pursue lifestyles that are much more healthy. The costs of providing health care both from Government and out-of-pocket for private citizens should come down,” the minister added.
He further explained that this would be supported by a thrust from the agricultural sector which should ensure the availability of healthier food alternatives.
Straughn said the Ministry of Education would also be playing a pivotal role in relation to what children eat particularly in the face of an increase in cases of childhood obesity.