CARICOM heads declare war on chronic NCDs
September 21, 2007

CARICOM heads declare war on chronic NCDs

The Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have approved a comprehensive programme to unite the region to stop the epidemic of chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs).{{more}}

At the end of their special one-day summit in Port of Spain on Sunday September 15, the region’s leaders unanimously adopted the historic Declaration of Port of Spain to combat the scourge of NCDs, which account for more than half of the cases of sickness and death in the Caribbean.

The Declaration underscored the link between health and development articulated by the Heads of Government in their 2001 Nassau Declaration that “the health of the region is the wealth of the region” and reaffirmed their resolve that health should be viewed not only as an outcome of development but also as a necessary input of development..

It recognised chronic non-communicable disorders – heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and cancer – as the major causes of sickness and death in the region and a great burden on its economies.

The summit zeroed in on unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and tobacco use as the main underlying causes of the chronic lifestyle diseases and, in what St Vincent & the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves termed “a wellness revolution”, it identified specific strategies to prevent the further spread of the epidemic and treat the disorders where they occur.

The planned strategies include the promotion of healthy lifestyle practices by individuals, communities and national populations and the adoption by the Governments of the region of public-policy measures that are conducive to wellness and wellbeing.

Among the promised policy measures are increased provision of adequate public facilities such as parks and other recreational spaces to encourage physical activity; reintroduction of physical education in schools where necessary; regulation of labelling of food products and of food importation to conform with the requirements for healthy food supplies.

The Port of Spain summit, the first conference in the world of any group of Heads of Government on chronic diseases, was addressed by the host Prime Minister Patrick Manning of Trinidad & Tobago; the Chairman of CARICOM, Prime Minister Owen Arthur of Barbados; the Secretary-General of CARICOM, Mr Edwin Carrington; the Prime Minister of St Kitts & Nevis, Dr Denzil Douglas, who in his capacity as the Lead Head of Government with responsibility for Health made the first technical presentation; and Sir George Alleyne, Chairman of the Caribbean Commission on Health & Development (CCHD), which produced the blueprint of the plan of action to give effect to the Nassau Declaration.

The new plan attracted immediate pledges of support from important international partners, including the World Bank and the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO), which supported CARICOM and the Government of Trinidad & Tobago in the organisation of the summit.