#Jamaica, October 25, 2017 – Kingston – Minister of Health, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, says the Government will continue to pursue stringent regulations and policies aimed at reducing lifestyle illnesses associated with non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
Speaking at the opening session for the Subregional Legal Training on NCDs at the Visitors’ Lodge, University of the West Indies, Mona, on October 24, he said policies and regulatory initiatives, coupled with lifestyle changes, are crucial components in tackling NCDs in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean region.
The Caribbean has the worst epidemic of NCDs in the Americas, and which cause more than 60 per cent of deaths in the region. In Jamaica, the diseases are responsible for most premature deaths, with high blood pressure affecting 25 per cent of the population. Some of the regulations, Dr. Tufton cited, include the establishment of a National Food Industry Taskforce; the Tobacco Control Regulations; the Jamaica Moves initiative; the National Strategic and Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs 2013-2018; and the National Alcohol Policy, 2015.
He informed that stakeholder consultations have begun following recommendations from the National Food Industry Task Force that was established last year. “Hopefully (that) will lead to some sort of regulatory framework,” he said.
Dr. Tufton further said the Ministry is moving towards a “comprehensive overhaul” of the Tobacco Control Regulations. The review is expected to address critical matters that have not been addressed under the existing Tobacco Control Regulations. These include regulating the interactions of Government officials with the tobacco industry, and regulating price and tax measures in a manner that will effectively contribute to the reduction of tobacco consumption, among others.
Dr. Tufton said the Jamaica Moves National Campaign aims to get Jamaicans to become more active. The campaign encourages Jamaicans of all ages to engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise for a minimum of five days per week for good health. Dr. Tufton said the Jamaica Moves National Campaign aims to get Jamaicans to become more active. The campaign encourages Jamaicans of all ages to engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise for a minimum of five days per week for good health.
“One of the challenges that we face with the NCD fight is really about changing culture and changing behaviour, starting with changing beliefs,” the Minister said. He added that the proliferation of mass media content, particularly from North America, has influenced lifestyle behaviour changes in the country and the wider Caribbean.
Meanwhile, he said a coordinated approach is critical in tackling NCDs across the region. “Hopefully, we will come out with a menu of policies that are similar in terms of learning from each other, and that can drive and change behaviour over time,” he said.
For her part, Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) Country Representative, Jamaica, Dr. Noreen Jack, said although the individual responsibility and initiative to make wise choices to benefit one’s health is important, an enabling environment is equally critical to facilitate making wise choices.
“This includes the existence of supportive policies to facilitate more positive choices that will promote good health,” she said.
The training seeks to build capacity with the relevant government entities within the Caribbean, in order to develop and strengthen the region’s capacity to address NCDs through policy formulation and the development and enforcement of effective legislative framework.
Most non-communicable diseases are the result of four particular behaviours, namely, tobacco use, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, and the harmful use of alcohol, that lead to four key metabolic/physiological changes – raised blood pressure, overweight/obesity, raised blood glucose and raised cholesterol.