New committee to push for prevention, control of NCDs

MINISTER of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton on Tuesday officially launched a 25-member National Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) Committee, which is charged with buttressing the ministry’s work to effectively combat NCDs in Jamaica.

The committee is chaired by professor of Epidemiology and Internal Medicine and director of the Epidemiology Research Unit, Caribbean Institute of Health Research, Professor Trevor Ferguson, and includes representatives of ministries and agencies, health experts, and other stakeholders.

Dr Tufton, in his address at the virtual launch, said that the committee will provide leadership for multisectoral action, with a goal towards advocating and recommending policies and programmes for the prevention and control of NCDs.

This includes identifying the different aspects of the problem surrounding NCDs, including the current patterns, and offering policy and implementation solutions to tackle the issue.

A key aspect of the work of the committee is to review and make proposals to the ministry on the various policies, laws and programmes in keeping with national, regional and international commitments related to NCDs.

These include Jamaica’s obligations rising out of the Port of Spain Declaration, the St Ann’s Declaration, and the United Nations Global Political Declaration on the NCDs, among others.

Dr Tufton said that the committee represents a whole-of-government approach to tackling the crisis of NCDs in Jamaica.

“It will add value to the work of the ministry at a policy and strategic level, which is going to be extremely important as we bring greater focus to the ways in which we can develop greater policy tools for preventing and controlling NCDs,” he noted.

He said that reducing exposure to risk factors will be an important aspect of the committee’s work.

“In some cases, it will also be a question of how we use the commission to identify gaps in our current policy framework and strengthen our monitoring and evaluation systems,” he pointed out.

Dr Tufton said that the setting up of the body is in keeping with Government’s increased focus on NCDs as part of the fight against the novel coronavirus.

He noted that the pandemic has taught a crucial lesson in terms of the impact of NCDs in the health outcome of people who have been infected by the virus.

Minister Tufton said that Jamaica and the wider Caribbean continue to experience a sharp rise in lifestyle illnesses, with the data on hypertension showing that one in three Jamaicans (684,900) have the disease, with four out of every 10 persons unaware that they are affected.

In addition, one in eight (236,200) persons have diabetes, and a similar amount do not know that they are challenged by the illness.

The minister noted further that one in two Jamaicans (more than 577,000) are overweight or obese, which is a risk factor for NCDs.

“Over the past 25 years, NCDs have been a major cause of mortality, morbidity and economic burden in the Caribbean, accounting for nearly 60 per cent of deaths annually. Given these statistics and their social and economic consequences, NCDs have to be a major priority for the Government and the public health system and should be for the citizens at large,” he said.

Dr Tufton said that the establishment of the NCDs Committee is also in keeping with the United Nations Global Political Declaration on NCDs and the Caricom Heads of Government 14-point Declaration: ‘Uniting to stop the epidemic of chronic NCDs’, which took place in 2007 in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad.

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