Gov’t declares war on non-communicable diseases

Line Dancers during a dance presentation, they are also joined by Primary School children (Photo by Theresa Goodwin)

The government is moving to legislate a tax on sugary beverages, which health authorities hope will influence a substantial reduction of sweetened drinks and increase intake of water by the population.

This is one of the primary measures which will be adopted in the country to address the ‘increase’ in Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases, in particular, Diabetes and Hypertension. 

Health Minister Molwyn Joseph told a gathering on Wednesday that the necessary legislation will be tabled in Parliament before the end of 2018 or very early in the New Year.

He made the statement on the occasion of World Diabetes Day, after explaining to the audience that every three out of 10 deaths that occur in Antigua and Barbuda have resulted from Diabetic complications and between January and April this year 

11 people had their limbs amputated at the Mount St. John’s Medical Centre (MSJMC).

“If Antigua and Barbuda [does] not do the right thing, if we do not make the right choices, we will not be able to escape death from Non-Communicable Diseases. We have to demonstrate greater commitment. I am hoping the next time we come here to celebrate World Diabetes Day, I will be able to say to the nation that we have made progress, I am declaring war on Diabetes through legislation,” the minister said.

Joseph also said he will be putting forward some recommendations to the Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda on behalf of the Antigua and Barbuda Diabetes Association to ensure that the lobby group has the necessary tools to continue its public awareness about Diabetes and Diabetes management.

He said they will be seeking to ensure that the association has a permanent place to meet as well as a secretariat so that the members will have a greater penetration in the country.

“Partnerships are extremely crucial. The Ministry of Health sees its role as supportive of all other organisations in Antigua and Barbuda. We are going to be going into the schools to send the message to the children who are the future generations,” Joseph said.

Meanwhile, Medical Director of the hospital Dr. Albert Duncan explained that over the past few years the hospital has been dealing with late-stage diabetes cases, often when the patient would have developed other complications. He also revealed that there are a lot of young people who are living with one limb.

“The complications of diabetes are very severe because almost everything is touched heart disease, vision, you name it.” The primary cause of Diabetes is really endocrine-related- meaning the pancreas are not doing what they are supposed to be doing.

“Secondary Diabetes or Type 2 Diabetes is what is driven mostly by environmental factors obesity, diet, lack of exercise and so forth. We can take control of this by being a bit more active,” Dr Duncan said.

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