Health ed, government policy needed to tackle NCDs in Caribbean

From SKNIS

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – Health education is one measure that can be taken to address the present rate of people living with noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) in the Caribbean. However, there are many more ways that the risks and problems can be tackled, said Dr. Waneisha Jones on “Working for You” June 13. She is the project manager for Improving Household Nutrition, Security and Public Health in CARICOM at the George Alleyne Chronic Disease Research Centre at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies in Barbados.

Jones is calling for more action in terms of government’s intervention in policy and the mobilization of resources. “We have been educating years on end,” she said. “So, we know that health education is not the only way to tackle the issue. So, in addition to that, we have to ensure to create supportive environments.”

Jones explained that the environments include the marketing environment; whether or not the neighbourhoods are walkable, and the walkability of the region that people are living in; whether or not necessary amenities or nearby supermarkets provide nutritious foods and if there is a nearby park or gym that people can be a part of to increase their physical activity. Walkability is a measure of how friendly an area is to walking. Walkability has health, environmental and economic benefits.

The project manager added that decisions can be made in terms of health policy at the governmental level. “One would be the taxation on the harmful, which would include, of course, our sugar sweetened beverages,” she said. “Looking at that, it will also include trying to get into our school systems as well through the Ministry of Education.”

She added that along with taxes, governments should look into subsidizing healthier alternatives so that they too can be more available to the householder. Jones mentioned that focusing on children with regards to NCDs, is very important as children are now being affected by what was deemed as adult diseases.

“So, getting into the schools and educating, but also trying to improve the school meals systems would be very important,” she said. “In order to do that, we will also have to engage members of our civil society. So, getting or farmers on board that potentially can contribute goods to the schools can help to implement a healthier school meals system.”