Minister of Health on Nevis Hon. Hensley Daniel issued a call to Nevisians to be mindful of their diet in particular over the Christmas season and onwards to help in the Nevis Island Administration’s (NIA) fight against diabetes.
He gave the advice on November 23, 2007, when the Nevis Diabetes Association in conjunction with the Health Promotion Unit held its World Diabetes Awareness March and Rally on World Diabetes Day, which culminated at the gazebo on the Charlestown waterfront. The theme was “Diabetes in Children and Adolescents”.
“We are getting too fat, we eat too much,” Mr. Daniel told those present including a contingent of secondary and primary school students, “there is too much sweet in our diet, we need to reduce the consumption of sweets and soft drinks; cut back on the cake for the Christmas season.”
He addressed the prevalence of diabetes on Nevis and reminded those present that there were 500 recorded cases on the island which had resulted in a staggering social and economic cost.“It must be worrying to me as Minister of Health that diabetes alone accounts for a substantial portion of the health budget. The cost of keeping 500 diabetics healthy so that they can contribute to economic and social development runs into millions of dollars here in Nevis.
“We have gotten so modern in Nevis that we have taken up the lifestyle disease of the developed modern world. Improvements in economic development have led to a concomitant improvement in the health status of the island. It may well be that the richer we have become materially, the poorer the health status. It is striking that in Nevis, despite the abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables, consumption is low hence the rise in obesity,” he said.
The Health Minister noted that diabetes could lead to the pauperization of the society and it was also a disease linked to poverty but in recent times had emerged as a disease of affluence.
He said too that death from the disease in the Caribbean was 10 times greater than Canada and was of the view that advertising and propaganda from North America has had a major impact on health in the region.
“The Caribbean has the highest rate of diabetes in Latin America and the Caribbean region and there is an epidemic of obesity in the Caribbean according to the Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute,” he said.
The Minister contends that there were a number of steps that should be taken to ensure a reduction in the incidence of diabetes which included a closer collaboration between the Ministries of health, trade and agriculture to ensure the importation of health foods and ensure acceptable nutritional standards; increased taxes on alcohol and tobacco; the establishment of a diabetes registry and the use of fiscal measures to encourage the consumption of health foods.
He said there was also the need to sharpen the focus on physical education; pay closer attention to nutritional value of school meals; the provision of healthy, secure exercise spaces and wellness centres; strengthen the health insurance coverage; increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables; make healthy choices easy choices through availability and lower cost; strengthen prevention, promotion and research; institute early identification and monitoring systems to track disease and that September 15th should be celebrated as Caribbean Wellness Day as part of a wellness revolution.