Barbados and other Small Island Developing States (SIDS) can successfully overcome the hurdle of reducing non-communicable disease (NCD) rates if citizens transform their behaviour.
That was the assertion of Prime Minister Mia Mottley who said that while governments and healthcare practitioners needed to work together to implement relevant policies and systems for citizens to engage in healthy lifestyle habits, it is important for people to understand the message.
She raised the point as she delivered the feature address at the opening of the Ministerial Conference on Non-Communicable Diseases and Mental Health, hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO), Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Ministry of Health and Wellness, at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, on Tuesday.
“What makes the journey fully realisable is to be able to go outside of this room and to go to the highways and the byways of each of our countries and to start to explain choices and consequences. You make choices, you suffer the consequences, you make choices, and you bear the rewards. The problem is that the information is not always readily available,” she said.
The Prime Minister noted that while West Indians, for example, have a taste for different types of foods, it was difficult for them to count the calories they are consuming.
She said information on calorie counting and consuming nutritious meals should be readily available to people to make their decision-making process easier.
Mottley also raised the concern that SIDS lack the diagnostic capacity to help citizens understand aspects of their health, including if they are predisposed to NCDS and what activities they should engage in to prevent any undesirable diagnoses.
“I don’t hide, and I say to anyone that because my family has a predisposition to colon cancer, the doctor tells me to come and check every three to five years, [but] I go every two [years]. I do that because a doctor once told me that if you get the polyps, the chances of being able to fight cancer of the colon are virtually non-existent. And I share these stories because it is only through example that we are going to start to shift the behaviour.
“I speak openly with my constituents as with the population of this country on these matters of health, because without that openness, we do not give others who might otherwise need the nudge an opportunity to go and do what they have to do,” Prime Minister Mottley said, adding that there is a need for SIDS to work towards investing in diagnostic capacity to empower their citizens. (AH)