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Home  >  News
“The Threat Of CNCDs To The Future Of Children”
Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Ministry of Health hosted a National Symposium on “The Threat Of Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases (CNCDs) To The Future Of Children” on August 23rd 2011 at the Hyatt Regency Trinidad.  The symposium was held to bring together a range of Government Ministries, public and private organizations, NGOs and civil society organizations to:

  • Share current data and research information on the risks driving the chronic disease epidemic in children and youth populations.
  • Develop an Action Agenda by identifying innovative approaches, and successful preventive strategies to reduce negative risk factors and promote healthy children. 
  • Foster multi-sector actions that promote environmental, social, and policy changes for healthy lifestyles and the prevention of chronic disease.
     


Minister of Health Dr Fuad Khan delivers the feature address while
Professor Surujpal Teelucksingh from UWI St Augustine and
the Minister of Education Dr Tim Goopeesingh listen attentively.




The Honourable Dr Fuad Khan Minister of Health delivered the feature address.  He noted “In 2004, the public expenditure on drugs for the treatment of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and hypertension was TT 34 million dollars. In 2009, this figure more than tripled to TT$121.8 million.  At present it is about $400 million.  What has been even more alarming for us in Trinidad and Tobago, has been the emergence of CNCDs in our children and youth populations.  Surely then, you would agree with me that this national symposium is of great significance.  Our children are the future of our nation.” 
 
Dr Khan explained that CNCDs are primarily lifestyle diseases and therefore largely preventable.  The Government’s Vision for Health spans from conception to exit, and is rooted in this philosophy of prevention.  The Ministry’s lines of action for CNCD Prevention and Control are multi-fold and include public policy development on chronic diseases; risk factors and determinants; the strengthening of our surveillance; emphasis on health promotion and disease prevention; and integrated management of chronic diseases and risk factors.
 
Dr Bernadette Theodore-Gandi, Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) Country Representative spoke about the implications of a CNCD epidemic and advised “The health of a population affects the economic development of a country.  However, the solution is outside the remit of the Ministry of Health.  It involves everyone.  We need to mobilize all sectors of society.  We need to evaluate our health programmes since individuals cannot make healthy choices if policies do not support this.  We have to create an environment that will encourage our citizens to make healthy choices.”

The Honourable Dr Tim Goopeesingh Minister of Education delivered remarks at the symposium and shared “I am pleased to be a part of an inter-ministerial team to address this national problem.  From a Ministry of Education perspective, I have been working on this issue for quite awhile.  We have been strengthening the school curriculums from infant to Standard 5.  We have ¼ million children in schools, almost 900 schools and about 15,000 teachers.  We are also engaged in the provision of meals to schools via 97,173 lunches and 56,000 breakfasts every day.  School kitchens and cafeterias are also being examined as part of this process, including if soft drinks should be sold in schools since there are about 450 calories per soft drink.  If we start the education right here in schools, we can impact almost ¾ million of our population with the right education.  This is then spread to the wider society since interventions at the school-aged stage will result in life-long lessons being learnt.” 

Dr Fitzroy Henry, Director Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute (CFNI) spoke about the “Critical Strategies for Preventing Childhood Obesity and Nutritional Problems in Caribbean Societies”.  His colleague, Ms Beverly Lawrence, Nutritionist also at CFNI, discussed the results of an evaluation of school meals and a survey of BMIs of school-aged children which showed a link between school feeding programmes and improved cognitive function, and that school-based programmes play an important role in promoting healthy eating behaviour.  Symposium participants were then both educated and entertained by Professor Surujpal Teelucksingh, of the University of The West Indies, St Augustine who delivered a riveting presentation on “The chronic disease challenge: A threat to childhood futures”.



Minister of Health Dr Fuad Khan replies to a question.
Others: Minister of Education Dr Tim Goopeesingh,
Bernadette Gandi of PAHO, THA Health Secretary Claudia Groome-Duke
and Verna St Rose Greaves Minister Gender Affairs


Other symposium participants included the Honourable Verna St Rose Greaves Minister of Gender, Youth and Child Development, the Honourable THA Secretary of Health and Social Services Ms Claudia Groome-Duke, Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary Antonia Popplewell, Chief Medical Officer Dr Anton Cumberbatch, TRHA Chief Executive Officer Mr. Paul Taylor, Ag NCRHA Chief Executive Officer Mr. Colin Bissessar, Chief Education Officer Ms Sharon Mangroo.
 


Background
 
Over the past fifty years Trinidad and Tobago has made great progress in health, with increasing life expectancy and elimination of childhood diseases such as polio and measles that greatly impaired the ability of children to achieve their full developmental potential.  Today, chronic diseases and their risk factors including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, hypertension and obesity have become the main health problems facing us, emerging even in children and adolescents. 
 
Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases (CNCDs) are the top four leading cause of death in Trinidad and Tobago accounting for over 60% of all deaths annually.  Modifiable behavioral risk factors such as unhealthy eating habits, physical inactivity, tobacco use overweight and obesity are some of the key drivers of the chronic disease epidemic.  These risk factors are inter-connected with other social and environmental factors such as poverty, education, physical infrastructure and policies that can influence the ability of people to access and engage in healthy choices, and ultimately impact the growing epidemic of NCD in the country.  .
 
The Trinidad and Tobago has provided leadership among CARICOM member countries, and internationally in promoting the critical importance of NCDs prevention, control, and the need for a strong, co-ordinated response from the highest levels of government and at the level of the United Nations.   Through the leadership of Trinidad and Tobago and CARICOM, CNCDs has been identified as a critical economic and developmental issue that is threatening the very viability of countries.  Other regions including Latin America, Russia, and the Commonwealth countries have joined in the call for CNCDs to be included in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). 
 
The Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago has identified women and children as important targets for focusing efforts on CNCDs prevention and control.    The 2010 survey of Body Mass Index (BMI), conducted by the Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute (CFNI/PAHO) for the Ministry of Health, revealed that childhood obesity is on the rise in Trinidad and Tobago.   Approximately a quarter of primary and secondary school age children, (24.6%), in Trinidad and Tobago are overweight or obese.  The school based Diabetes Screening project being conducted by Professor Surujpal Teelucksingh has further revealed the existence of Type II Diabetes, often referred to as adult onset Diabetes, in school aged children. Overweight and obesity are risk factors for Type II Diabetes. These are indicators that the current chronic disease epidemic is only going to worsen if critical preventive and health promoting action is not taken urgently.





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