September 23, 2014

The health of a nation is the wealth of that nation

Tue, Sep 23, 2014

It is often said that the health of a nation is the wealth of that nation, but very rarely are we presented with hard, cold facts to support this.

Last week, SEARCHLIGHT carried a story in our edition of September 19, which showed that the Chikungunya virus has affected productivity in this country at a level not recorded before, at least not in the last three decades.{{more}}

The National Insurance Services (NIS) shared data with SEARCHLIGHT which indicated that in the six weeks between August 1, 2014 and September 15, 2014, 882 sickness benefit claims, as a result of Chikungunya, costing the NIS over $225,000, had been filed.

According to an official at the NIS, in the 28 years since that organization has been in operation, the total number of sickness claims (for all types of illnesses) in August (1081) was the highest ever received for a single benefit type, with 40 per cent (436) of the claims being attributed to Chikungunya.

The sickness benefit claims filed with the NIS give just a fraction of those in our productive sector who have fallen ill and have had to take time off work because of Chikungunya, since the virus was first identified in St Vincent and the Grenadines in April, 2014. Many of our workers, especially daily paid workers in the construction, agricultural and fisheries sectors, and the self-employed, may not be captured in these figures, as they are less likely to have filed claims than those employed by others on a monthly basis.

Consider the multiplier effect in our economy of such a drastic drop in productivity among our workers. Work on construction sites has slowed down, fishing boats have not gone to sea, production on factory floors and on the farms has slowed down, and fewer people have been catching public transportation to go to work.

What is also interesting to note is that even though the virus was confirmed here since April, no significant jump in the number of sickness benefit claims was observed by the NIS until last month – August.

The number of sickness benefit claims filed for the year are as follows: January – 527, February – 540, March – 549, April – 499, May – 623, June – 562, July – 693, August – 1081. That increase in the incidence of Chikungunya in August, according to a public health official, could be attributed to the onset of the rainy season, thus providing the vector of the disease, the aedes aegypti mosquito, with more abundant breeding sites in the open containers in our immediate environs.

But the incidence of the Chikungunya virus is expected to abate once the dry season sets in and more of our people develop an immunity to the disease. Hopefully this reduction in the incidence of new infections is not too long in coming – the continued development of our country depends on it.