Geneva, Switzerland – Health Minister, Dr. Christopher Tufton, has renewed his call at the highest level for countries in the region to be more deliberate and robust with their action plan to mitigate against the Non-Communicable Diseases, NCDs. Speaking at the Commonwealth Health Ministers Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, earlier today, Dr. Tufton pointed to alarming Caribbean statistics that show that 77% of deaths in the region are as a result of lifestyle diseases/NCDs. The data, as presented by the Minister, also indicates that 40% of these deaths are premature – 30 to 69 years.
The Minister is hopeful that the countries will leave the summit fully cognisant of the impact NCDs are having in the region and will pledge their deeper commitment to pursuing the ten WHO National NCD targets by 2025 (http://www.who.int/nmh/publications/ncd-progress-monitor-2015/en/). Currently, Jamaica and Barbados lead the region, having already achieved seven of the 10 targets. More than half of the other countries have reach three or fewer of the targets – Haiti is yet to achieve any.
In the Jamaican context where currently seven out of every 10 deaths is caused by an NCD, the Pan-American Health Organization/World Health Organization, PAHO/WHO, projects that an estimated $17 billion will be lost in Gross Domestic Product, GDP, due to NCDs & mental health conditions(2015- 2030). Jamaica is leading with a few initiatives (e.g. Jamaica Moves – our physical activity and healthy diet campaigns and our National Food Industry Task Force).
Dr. Tufton, who had been selected to represent the Caribbean’s Ministers of Health, used his presentation to place on records his own mandate to achieving all NCD targets and a Call to Action for his regional colleagues. He used Commonwealth Ministers find the political will do what is necessary to set their countries on the right path. The Minister asked the regional authorities to:
- Re-commit to the Global NCD Agenda http://www.who.int/nmh/global_monitoring_framework/en/;
- Establish Regional Multi-Sector Taskforce on NCDs;
- Implement national legislation consistent with the provisions of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and its guidelines;
- Develop road-map to address childhood obesity among our school population;
- Implement policies (including fiscal) to reduce consumption of tobacco, alcohol, sugar-sweetened beverages and energy dense nutrient-poor products;
- Establish a regulatory regime for the compulsory food labelling of all commercially manufactured foods;
- Strengthen health systems for NCD management with focus on primary health care and Universal Access.