My 2024 healthcare wish list for  St. Vincent and the Grenadines – Part 3
Physician's Weekly
January 23, 2024
My 2024 healthcare wish list for St. Vincent and the Grenadines – Part 3
Ban the importation of hair products with formaldehyde

Breast, ovarian, and uterine cancers have been linked to hair dyes and chemical hair straighteners. Non-cancerous illnesses associated with hair products include dementia, fibroids, endometriosis, reduced fertility, asthma, allergies, and skin irritation.

The skin is the body’s largest organ and is capable of absorbing substances. The scalp’s excellent blood supply, coupled with an abundance of hair follicles, makes it four times more absorbent than any other area of skin.

When a chemical hair straightener or hair dye is applied to the hair, the chemicals enter the bloodstream shortly after coming into contact with the scalp. Most straighteners and dyes are packed with hundreds of toxic chemicals, including formaldehyde, which can have disastrous implications for the user’s health.

There is an increasing body of evidence that links the epidemic of breast cancer, especially in young Black women, and the comparatively higher incidence of dementia seen in older Black women, to their hair dyes and chemical hair relaxers.

Many of the chemicals found in hair dyes and chemical hair straighteners are disruptive to the body’s finely-tuned hormone balance.

Some of the most toxic chemicals in hair products include, but are not limited to:

  • Formaldehyde
  • Phthalates
  • Parabens
  • Mineral oils
  • Coal tar
  • Triclosan
  • Benzene
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Heavy metals
  • Bisphenol A

There are no legislated restrictions on the importation of hair products, irrespective of the ingredients found within. Maintaining such a policy will inevitably result in many more of our Vincy women succumbing to breast, ovarian, and uterine cancers.

ALL hair products with formaldehyde need to be banned immediately.

Manufacturers of these hair products often use another name for formaldehyde on their label, however, it is in fact the same dangerous and lethal chemical. Alternative names for formaldehyde include formicaldehyde, paraform, formol, methylene glycol, methylene oxide, tetraoxymethalene, formalin (methanol-free), FYDE, formalith, methanal, methyl aldehyde, oxomethane, and oxymethylene.

Non-Anglophone doctors must be independently certified in English.

Satisfactory communication between a doctor and their patient is critical to optimizing health outcomes.

Suboptimal communication results in:

  • Wrong diagnosis
  • Wrong treatment
  • Inadequate patient education
  • Loss of trust in the healthcare system
  • Poor compliance by the patient
  • Inefficient use of resources
  • Increased pain and suffering
  • Premature patient death.

It should be a prerequisite that all medical doctors from non-English-speaking countries wishing to practice in SVG be proficient in reading, listening, writing, and speaking English. Certification can be obtained from an internationally recognized linguistic testing body for doctors – e.g. Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board test (PLAB), or the equivalent.

Introduce thrombolytic treatment for strokes.

A stroke is caused by the interruption of the arterial blood supply to the brain. Stokes are either thromboembolic or hemorrhagic. A thromboembolic stroke is caused by a clot formed in an artery supplying the brain (i.e. thrombus) or a clot that has travelled from somewhere (i.e. embolus) and becomes lodged most commonly in the middle cerebral artery (MCA).

A hemorrhagic stroke is commonly caused by the rupture of one of the penetrating arteries of the brain. Both types of stroke can result in calamitous outcomes, including paralysis, inability to speak, and death.

Thromboembolic strokes, representing 80% of strokes, can in many instances be completely reversed if a thrombolytic (clot-dissolving) agent is administered within 3 hours of the onset of the symptoms.

For a thromboembolic stroke victim to benefit from thrombolysis, the following need to be in place:

  • 24/7 access to CT scan services and a neuroradiologist. Via teleradiology, a neuroradiologist can be accessed for a cost-effective fee in many parts of the world.
  • Thrombolytic medicines.

With such a service, up to 80% of stroke victims will have a chance of achieving a full recovery from their stroke.

Health must be considered in all government policies.

We are facing a tsunami of major health challenges here in SVG. For example, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, a range of cancers, mental illnesses, and many other major ailments.

Many of these disorders are intimately linked to diet, lifestyle, living conditions, education, culture, our history, and socioeconomic factors.

In promoting and supporting the health and well-being of Vincentians, we can no longer afford to divorce the impact of the implementation or non-implementation of policies are having on Vincentians’ health.

In many countries, their governments are increasingly adopting an approach to policymaking that systematically and objectively determines how a proposed government policy, or lack thereof, is likely to impact the health of their population.

Finally. Let us not abdicate our fiduciary responsibility to advocate and agitate for policies that unequivocally benefit the individual and collective health of the majority of Vincentians. To ignore this duty will result in more unnecessary pain and suffering for our people.