The government of Antigua and Barbuda is currently putting plans in place to tackle the issues affecting the health and wellness of residents.
Minister of Health, Wellness and the Environment, Molwyn Joseph, told a stakeholders’ meeting on Thursday that too many of the deaths in Antigua and Barbuda are the result of non-communicable diseases.
According to Joseph, this is a “lifestyle disease”, and Antiguans and Barbudans have been “eating ourselves to death”.
“We no longer go to the vegetable markets, now we go to the supermarkets,” he stated.
The minister noted that people need to take responsibility for their health and wellness.
“What is encouraging is that we do not need any scientist to come up with any cure for this disease. The cure is right within our hands and it is called embracing a healthy lifestyle. Eat right, exercise, cut out the sugars, the salts and the fat. That is the challenge,” Joseph said.
Within the next two months, it is anticipated that the minister will move the second and third readings of a Bill in Parliament, to finally pass the Tobacco Bill that will eliminate smoking in public places.
The passing of this Bill will make it “more difficult” for people to “smoke themselves to death through cancer,” he continued.
The government is also looking to pass legislation to reduce the consumption of sugars.
“Too many of our young people in schools who are supposed to be athletic, are overweight and obese, simply because of wrong diets and specifically because of the high-volume consumption of sugary drinks,” the minister said.
“We will continue to develop our hospital to cure diseases and treat diseases and do the necessary surgeries, but for the first time, we believe that we must budget as much to encourage people to live a more wholesome lifestyle and advance the concept of wellness,” Joseph said.
This will be seen as the government’s way of addressing these challenges “head on”.
The Antigua government is currently considering recommendations from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) to introduce tax disincentives for the consumption of sugary drinks.
Additionally, funding is being sought for the development of six recreational facilities to be erected across the island.
“Citizens can routinely go there free of cost and have equipment for exercise, space to walk and make it seamless for people to become physically active. We want to encourage people to become physically active,” he continued.
The first such facility is likely to be developed in the vicinity of Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground.