August 2, 2013

Our health – a shared responsibility

Fri Aug 02, 2013

The “state” of our health sector is a favourite topic of discussion among Vincentians. In most cases, the spotlight falls on the sector when there are unfulfilled expectations of some of our people, when they visit our health facilities or interface with our medical personnel. Sometimes the criticism is deserved, other times not.{{more}}

The truth is however, the provision of certain basics facilities, services and interventions are the responsibility of the State, and if the State is to do a good job at meeting these responsibilities, its strategies must be evidence based.

The Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment is on the verge of conducting the first ever National Health and Nutrition survey (NHNS) in St Vincent and the Grenadines. Scheduled to begin September 30 and estimated to take two months, the survey is being funded under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) Project under the theme “Modernization of the Health Sector”.

The survey is designed to get evidence needed to guide strategies aimed at influencing individual, family and community behavior, as well as intra and inter sectoral policy development.

In September 2007, in its Declaration of Port of Spain, CARICOM recognized the suffering and burdens caused by Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) on the citizens of our Region, which is the one worst affected in the Americas. The regional body recommended among other things, that our Ministries of Health, in collaboration with other sectors, establish comprehensive plans for the screening and management of chronic diseases and risk factors so that by 2012, 80 per cent of people with NCDs would receive quality care and have access to preventive education based on regional guidelines.

Apparently, St Vincent and the Grenadines is among the last of CARICOM countries to conduct the NHNS, which will give very valuable information on nutritional intake, dietary patterns and current levels of risk factors for chronic diseases among our people.

The survey, for example, will help to better explain as to why it is that in SVG, we use more insulin than in some larger countries, and why we have one of the highest rates of diabetes related deaths. It will also give details about the lifestyle among specific demographics, so that targeted interventions can be fashioned for maximum effectiveness.

The project is of grave importance for us as individuals, and for the sustainable development of our country. Even though at first glance, it appears that responsibility for a person’s health rests significantly with the individual, there are many things external to the individual and outside of his/her control which impact on lifestyle and the choices made.

The NHNS should also provide evidence for pushing policies which enable / empower healthy living. For example, if it is determined that smoking is a major risk factor in SVG, contributing to cancer being a cause of morbidity and mortality, should taxes on cigarettes be increased and should there be a ban on cigarettes and ban smoking in government and public areas? Do we need to subsidize farmers and fisher folk more, to reduce the cost of vegetables and fish to consumers to encourage increased consumption?

SEARCHLIGHT therefore encourages EVERYONE to give full support as this survey is embarked upon. Persons chosen to be interviewed and/or tested are asked to cooperate fully. Remember, your health is a shared responsibility. Please play your part.