- Thank You Chairperson, Ms. Gina Joseph,
- Permanent Secretary, Ms. Antonia Popplewell
- Chief Medical Officer, Dr Akenath Misir
- Dr.Bernadette Theodore Gandhi, PAHO/WHO Representative
- Dr Kumar Sundaraneedi, Medical Programme Director Ministry of Health
- Mr. Dave Clement, Director, Central Statistical Office
- Dr. Sarah Quesnal, CAREC/CARPHA
- Chairmen and CEO’s of Regional Health Authorities
- MoH Management Executive
- Media Members
- Specially Invited Guests
"Thank you very much. A pleasant good morning to all the members of the media who have all taken time to come here. To the members of the head table, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ghani, Dr. Sundaraneedi, who was the one responsible for this study, Permanent Secretary, members of the Ministry of Health, members of the RHAs, members of the CSO, members of CAREC and John Hopkins, welcome.
The reason I asked to do this launch today was dependant on the fact that that this was a 2012 launch and we are slowly approaching the end of 2012 and the other survey will be taken I understand in 2016 so I think, going into the Christmas season, going into the Carnival season it is imperative that we decide to launch something on lifestyles and CNCDs. Not being a kill joy to the population but to make them aware that this is occurring.
I asked Dr. Fernandez to say a part of what is happening because the study starts off with the 15 age group to the 64 age group. However Dr. Fernandez’s been dealing with the children under 5, the paediatric age group and you have heard exactly what is occurring in that age group with obesity as well as the development of CNCDs.
This CNCD epidemic was brought to the forefront by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago and we are proud to stand here today after completing our STEPS survey with the World Health Organization initiative. The epidemic of CNCDs which result from the behavioural patterns of children also go throughout the country. This brings forward exactly why the Ministry of Health is pushing the initiative because once we maintain our unhealthy lifestyles we create a very high cost factor for the Ministry of Health and Trinidad and Tobago resulting in exactly what we call the social determinants of health.
When somebody has a complication of a CNCD, it’s not just a heart attack you have or a dialysis problem, what you do have is a breadwinner who can no longer work and that breadwinner who can no longer work pushes a family into poverty and we end up with what we call the social determinants of Health which is poverty, etc as a result of the complications with CNCDs. If it’s looked in that manner we will look at it in a different light and a different lifestyle.
Ladies and gentlemen as we officially launch the final report for the risk factor survey during this holiday season, this is an excellent time to remind the country about the importance of embracing and implementing healthy lifestyles.
The results of the STEPS survey, as you would have heard so far, indicated that more than half the country’s adult population is overweight or obese. Further, 30% to 60% of the population do not achieve the minimum recommended levels of physical activity daily. According to the survey, the overall prevalence of smoking was 21% of the population and for alcohol consumption, it was 40%. Comparing these results with the findings that 90% of adults do not consume the daily recommended 5 servings-a-day of fruits and vegetables a day although we do have an abundance of these in our country.
These results underscore the reason for the increase in non-communicable or lifestyle diseases we have been observing over the past few years. CNCDs, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer account for more than half of all deaths in Trinidad and Tobago and in the Caribbean region by extension.
Our socioeconomic development has come at a price. We have seen a change in lifestyle and dietary patterns as people decreased their consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, peas and legumes while increasing their consumption of sugars fats and oils. This has been coupled with a significant decrease in physical activity and ladies and gentlemen the so called ‘modern lifestyles’ have contributed to an unparallel increase in the chronic non-communicable diseases we are currently witnessing in our country.
Tobacco smoke is a known contributor to the development of heart disease, a host of chronic respiratory illnesses and several cancers including cancers of the lungs, mouth and throat. In fact, the tobacco industry is the only industry in the world, whose products, if used as directed, can kill consumers.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the world is facing a tobacco epidemic as well as a CNCD epidemic. Tobacco smoke currently kills 5.4 million people a year from lung cancer, heart disease, and other tobacco related illnesses. More than 80 percent of these deaths occur in developing countries, leading to a less productive workforce and the inevitable rise of health care costs and social determinants of health.
The World Health Organisation has also noted in our STEPS survey that alcohol is the third most harmful risk factor for the development of CNCDs including several cancers, heart disease and stroke, liver diseases, inflammation of the pancreas and mental health problems.
In order to reverse the trend of chronic non-communicable diseases, tobacco and alcohol consumption must be carefully controlled. Additionally, citizens must commit to making significant lifestyle changes to improve their diets and increase their levels of physical activity.
Particularly as we are in the season of festive food and drinks, following which, we will be heading straight into Carnival; I am calling on the national community to exercise responsibility and somewhat restraint. By all means, enjoy the cuisine of the season, but do so in moderation. Do not over eat. You can even sample everything on the menu but it is important to watch your portions. Be sure to add vegetable options to your plate at every meal, and try to get your five servings of fruit per day. Fruits and vegetables are our closest allies in the fight against chronic non-communicable diseases. It is also very important to manage your alcohol consumption. Alcohol, in addition to impairing your judgement and possibly it makes you eat more as well as increasing your appetite. It also adds to unnecessary calories. The ladies should take that into consideration.
The data what we have here in the little file that we gave you as well as the book itself, and I am going to show it. This is a study and it has all the facts and information of a total survey from age 16 to 64. You should get a copy of this and hopefully print as much as you can to educate the population of what we have seen and have found as a result of this survey.
What has come out of it also is that a combined total of 55.7% of participants were either overweight or obese and this is about 2,200 plus respondents. It is noteworthy that the 15 to 18 year old age group 29.7%, approximately 30% were overweight and 13% were obese. The next youngest group, the 19 to 24 year old, 38% and 10% were obese. The data suggests that an average of 42.8% of 15 to 18 year olds and 48.7% of 19 to 24 year olds are either overweight of obese.
When we look at the first sheet of our precedes part of it you will see; The average age that our population started smoking in males is 17 years old and in females, 19 years; that’s the third line. Alcohol consumption (the last line) percentage of persons who engaged in heavy episodic drinking, in the last 30 days were 33.9% of men and 16.8% of women.
When you go lower down, you will see that those who had less than 5 servings of fruit and vegetables per day which was 93% of males did not eat the average amount and 90% of females did not.
PAHO/WHO Country Representative Dr Bernadette Gandi, Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan, Permanent Secretary Antonia Popplewell, Director Health Programme Dr Kumar Sundaraneedi
What we’ve found out is what we have suspected all along that lifestyle changes, has contributed to the explosion of heart attacks, strokes, kidney problems, cancers and we can name all the problems of the epidemic of the CNCDs.
I just want to say over the last year, we have been able to promote a successful ‘Fight the Fat’ campaign and people are speaking about it. I want people to look at the alcohol consumption for the holidays as we go on to Christmas and Carnival, increase your daily, increase your cardiac and aerobic activity, walk more, increase your fruit intake and increase your oats intake. In other words, start looking for foods that are considered, low glycaemic foods and partake in that because they make you full longer and lessen calories. I also want to announce and this will come as a surprise to my people right here, I’m going to have a ‘Fight the Fat’ marathon during the 2nd week in March next year, so prepare yourselves.