Guyana and Trinidad are the two Caribbean nations which have the dubious distinction of holding the two top positions according to researchers, in death rates from Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs). This was revealed on Wednesday, during a press conference by Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) officials to update the media on the progress made by the region, some ten years after the Port of Spain Protocol on NCDs.
Addressing the media, at the Grenada Radisson Hotel, Dr Alafia Samuels expressed serious concerns about the regional premature death rates, which are twice as high as the United States. Dr Samuels, who is also the Director of the Chronic Disease Research Centre, at University of West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, said that Guyana and the Twin Island Republic were ranked as first and second respectively, in terms of the prevalence and deaths from heart disease and diabetes. These statistics, which are for the North, South, Central America and Caribbean countries are being fueled by several factors such as; decreased physical activity, obesity, bad diets, tobacco smoking and alcohol abuse, she explained.
These risk factors she said, “are being driven by aggressive marketing.” She added that while the region has food security, it lacks food sovereignty,” the latter is evident from the influx of fast food outlets, economies of scale in purchasing imported foods and the high cost of health food across the Caribbean. Dr. Samuels recalled that the fast food phenomena has transformed the region’s eating habits over the last decade especially, “Our grandparents grew their food. Our parents went to the market. We go to the supermarket and our children go to the fast food outlet.”
Another fact Dr Samuels pointed out was, that the region consumed the highest rate of (Carbonated)soda or soft drinks in the world. She said, “Per capita we drink an average of two (2) drinks per person each day.” Alcohol abuse, she added, remains a serious problem which is controlled by a “powerful industry.”
All of the aforementioned factors also contributed to 25 percent of CARICOM’s citizens dying from high blood pressure. According Dr Samuels, “men fare worse than women.” Today’s revelations arose from a press conference by members of a CARICOM Commission to evaluate the progress of issues raised by the Port of Spain Protocol on NCDs, ten years ago.
Dr Samuels, who was accompanied by Grenada’s Health Minister Nicolas Steel, CARICOM Program Manager Commission on NCDs Dr Rudolph Cummings, Executive Director and Head of CARPHA Dr James Hospedales said that, the Commission has proposed several recommendations such as taxes on sugar, fats, salts and alcohol. These recommendations will be discussed by the CARICOM leaders during the second day’s business session of the 38th Heads of Government Conference in Grenada.