a civil society alliance for combatting chronic disease in the caribbean

Healthy Caribbean Coalition - Background paper and fact sheet for the “Healthy Caribbean 2008 - first Caribbean Chronic Disease Conference”…………………………………………No: 1

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The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) consists of 15 countries in the region with a total population of approximately 14.5 million. Chronic non communicable diseases, namely, heart and blood vessel diseases, cancer, diabetes and lung diseases have consistently over the past decade been the leading causes of death in these countries. These diseases occur in settings of tobacco use and exposure, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, and harmful use of alcohol; known as risk factors, all of which are lifestyle related.

Nearly 70,000 potential years of life were lost in persons less than 65 years of age in CARICOM countries (excluding Jamaica) in the years 2000 and 2004 due to chronic diseases.

Hypertension (high blood pressure), obesity, alcohol, tobacco and high blood cholesterol are the leading risk factors contributing to death in Latin America and the Caribbean, with an estimated more than 400,000 deaths attributable to hypertension and slightly less than 300,000 to each of obesity, alcohol, and tobacco annually.

Trends in overweight /obesity in the Caribbean show a near threefold increase among females and males from the 1970s to the 1990s, with the overall prevalence of nearly 60% in females and just over 20% in males in the 1990s.

The prevalence of diabetes in adults in Barbados (16.4%), Trinidad and Tobago (12.7%), Jamaica (12.6%), and Belize (12.4%), is among the highest in the Americas.

There has been an increasing trend in death from diabetes in the Caribbean among females from just over 40 per 100,000 population in 1985, to greater than 70 per 100,000 in the year 2000, and for males corresponding figures of 30 per 100,000 to 55 per 100,000 over the same period.

The age adjusted death rates for diabetes among CARICOM countries in the year 2000 ranged from 25 per 100,000 (Suriname), to more than 100 per 100,000 (Trinidad & Tobago), when compared with figures from Canada and the USA of less than 20 per 100,000.

Hypertension has been shown to occur in 24.0% – 37.5% of adults age 25 – 64 in the Caribbean. Control of hypertension would be expected to reduce death rates by 15 % – 20 %.

The age adjusted death rates from hypertension in the year 2000 was estimated at more than 30 per 100,000 in most CARICOM countries, compared to less than 10 per 100,000 in USA and Canada.

The estimated cost of diabetes and hypertension as a percentage of GDP was Bahamas (9.1%), Barbados (>5%), Jamaica (6%), and Trinidad and Tobago (8%). The estimated economic burden in 2001 of diabetes and hypertension in 2001 of diabetes and hypertension in 2001 was in US$, 77 million in Bahamas, 111 Million in Barbados, 460 Million in Jamaica, and 754 in Trinidad and Tobago.

It is well established that if the known risk factors are controlled, at least 80% of heart disease, stroke and diabetes and 40% of cancers would be prevented thus resulting in a significant reduction in the chronic diseases.

Reduction of chronic diseases involves national and community effort, involving the creation of enabling environments, to facilitate individual action, through the effective introduction, designing, and implementation of effective planning and policy decisions, the enactment of fiscal measures and legislation, engagement of civil society organizations, building of a healthy school environment, active involvement of employers and employment stakeholders to enhance the workplace.

Data source. Presentation by Prime Minister of St. Kitts & Nevis, Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas, at the Regional Summit on Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases, Trinidad and Tobago, 15 September 2007.

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