Today, November 14th Trinidad and Tobago joins the international community in observing World Diabetes Day.
According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), in 2011 over 366 million persons worldwide were diagnosed with diabetes. That number, according to IDF projections is set to rise to 552 million by 2030. Complications due to diabetes remain a major cause of disability, reduced quality of life and death.
Recent data from the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) puts Trinidad and Tobago in the unenviable and rather worrisome position of having one of the highest prevalence of diabetes of all the countries in the region of the Americas.
Trinidad and Tobago’s situation is further complicated by the fact that we have one of the highest prevalence, morbidity and mortality rates for Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), which includes diabetes, in the Caribbean and these rates have been steadily increasing over time. For a small country of just 1.3 million citizens, NCDs account for over 60% of premature death.
Being largely recognized as lifestyle diseases, NCDs (diabetes, heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, respiratory disease) are preventable and dependent on an individual’s life choices. Obesity, poor diet (often characterized by high carbohydrate intake and a paucity of fruit and vegetables), tobacco and alcohol intake, physical inactivity; are major influencers in the onset of NCDs.
Personal changes in attitudes and behaviour, with regard to healthy living, are imperative and key determinants to treating with the rising epidemic of diabetes and other NCDs locally, regionally and internationally.
These changes are particularly necessary within our country’s and the CARICOM Region’s youth population, as data points to an alarming trend of an increase in the risk factors for NCDs (greater consumption of tobacco and alcohol, sedentary lifestyles, unhealthy diets) presenting in our young people.
In Trinidad and Tobago, as in the wider CARICOM Region, we as leaders are facing the very real possibility, of the compromise in the health of our adults of tomorrow, in whose hands lie the future of our countries and the Region, if these trends are not halted and reversed.
Recognising the potential physical, economic and social burdens posed by unchecked NCDs; in December 2012 the Ministry of Health presented the Final Report of the “Trinidad and Tobago Pan American STEPS Chronic Non Communicable Disease Risk Factor Survey”, which was conducted in response to a World Health Organisation call for an integrated approach to the prevention and management of NCDs.
Armed with this data, Trinidad and Tobago is now better positioned to further implement, through the Ministry of Health, our Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs.
My Government, through the Ministry of Health and in collaboration with Regional and International organisations, will continue to actively promote the adoption of healthier lifestyles in our fight to reduce the prevalence of NCDs in our country.
But much of the success in combatting NCDs ultimately resides with each and every individual. Each person has control over his/her decisions and actions. Responsibility for healthy living rests with YOU!
My Government will ensure that the relevant information and services are available to each and every member of our population to assist you in making positive lifestyle choices.
Collectively, as a Nation, we must endeavour to remove from Trinidad and Tobago, the dubious distinction of having one of the highest prevalence of diabetes in the Americas and one of the highest morbidity and mortality rates due to Non-Communicable Diseases in the Caribbean; to the country in the Americas with the lowest risk factors for and prevalence of NCDs.
Together, we have the power to improve and preserve the health and ultimately the economic development and prosperity of our Nation.
The Honourable Kamla Persad-Bissessar
Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago