A national policy on non-communicable diseases (NCD) will be introduced within the next two weeks, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said yesterday. It will be based on an examination of factors creating inequity throughout the health system, he said, adding that it was unfortunate that the disadvantaged and vulnerable are often the ones who carry the heaviest burden.
The minister said the Government is taking a stance against health threats such as cardio-vascular diseases, diabetes, hypertension and cancers but admitted that people in the lower strata who are too busy trying to survive on a daily basis are the most affected. He said constraints such as a lack of time, education, finances and a general inclination to lead unhealthy lives are among the impediments they face.
Deyalsingh said achievable targets have been set and depend on policy implementation as this was the first time T&T will have legislation to aid the process.
Speaking at the opening of the T&T Medical Association's (TTMA) 22nd Annual Medical Research Conference at the Trinidad Hilton and Conference Centre yesterday, Deyalsingh promised to ensure that T&T attains developed country status by reducing mortality and morbidity rates in various areas.
The minister said it is costly for taxpayers to continue to provide treatment for people suffering with NCDs, with approximately $136,000 spent to provide dialysis per patient per year. This was a drain on the Treasury, he said, and the time has come to reverse the dependency syndrome.
President of the T&T Medical Association, Dr Stacey Chamely, underscored the importance of transforming lives before they reached the stage of becoming a burden to their family and the State. She said this year's conference had been broadened to include legislative, political and civil society input.
Claiming that it is an overwhelming burden already, Chamely said the situation with people suffering with NCDs is expected to become six times worse by 2020. She said this group of people also experience the highest mortality rates and agreed with Deyalsingh that the top ten causes of death all fell under the 12 social determinants of health, with the top four listed as cardio-vascular, diabetes, hypertension and mental illness.
President of the World Medical Association, Prof Michael Marmot, said every person should have the best start in life in terms of early childhood care, education, health, living accommodations and working conditions.
"Everyone should have the minimum income necessary for a healthy life. If you haven't got enough money to feed your children, you can't have a healthy life or eat healthy food," he said.
On the issue of smoking, he said one had to ask what made it so popular and common among people occupying the lower economic stratas.