CARICOM Leaders Making Sport At The Health Of Our People~Chronic Non-communicable Diseases On The Rise In The Caribbean
In other parts of the world, bullets, the sword, or other forms of violent persuasion are used about as often to interrupt the courses of leaders while leading their countries. But the cynics would once again point out that these same leaders have a track record of leaving Caribbean shores for treatment overseas when personally affected by the CNCDs, while suggesting that their people have access to the “best affordable” health care locally.
Caribbean people have become accustomed over the last two decades of promises from our ministers responsible for health of “improved health provision”. The optimists can suggests that a 21-year wait between identifying health areas for priority consideration and finally getting some action is “reasonable”.
The weeks, months and years ahead will determine whether the cynics, accustomed to the No Action Talk Only (NATO) approach by our ministers responsible for health to many health issues that wreak havoc in our populations, or the optimists, will be forced to keep their mouths shut.
Source: Quote From Dr. Colin V. Alert Who Is A Family Physician Writing In The Nation Newspaper 19/09/2007
We read the expose posted by Barbados Free Press today about the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH). We all agree that although our health care system is one of the best in the region, by our own standards, we have been slipping in recent years. The myriad of issues which continue to flow from our lone public hospital makes the BU household pray every night that we remain in good health. In a previous article, we have taken Dr. Jerome Walcott to task because, as the minister responsible, the buck should stop with him. We felt at the time of his appointment to the health ministry, as a doctor he should have a grasp of the many issues facing the hospital and this insight would ensure that a solution oriented culture would have emerged by now. It does seem to us as outsiders looking in, the problems at the QEH are unsolvable. It was only this week while discussing the absence of Gline Clarke from Barbados, who is known to be in the USA seeking medical attention, that the concern was raised as to why our leaders seem so quick to seek outside medical attention. Dr. Alert in the quoted article above is of the same view.
It is said that the health of a nation should be given priority because a healthy workforce is a productive workforce. The astronomical rise of chronic non-communicable diseases (CNCDs) in the CARICOM region has been occupying the region’s leaders in recent days. In all areas of the media, the public is being inundated with messages about the lifestyle changes which our people must make if we are to stop the increase in CNCDs. We have heard Dr. Denzil Douglas who has lead responsibility in CARICOM for health, we have heard Prime Minister Arthur who is Chairman of CARICOM and today, on an incessant basis, we heard Senator Lynette Eastmond in her monosyllabic manner attempting to deliver the message for the need of our people to make lifestyle changes.
So where should we start?
Let BU state upfront that Dr. Alert has banged the nail squarely on the head! CARICOM has developed a firm reputation around the region as a talk shop where rhetoric abounds like “shit in a pit”. The cynicism of our Caribbean people has been taking root over the years with the inability of our leaders to quicken the pace of regional integration. The latest regional agency, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) remains another CARICOM entity which has flopped for the moment. We agree 100% with Dr. Alert that the latest focus of CARICOM leaders on health should be viewed with suspicion from this group of men devoid of a demonstrated ability to implement a vision.
How can our leaders expect our people to successfully adopt healthy lifestyle changes required to combat CNCDs in the face of the terror of globalization? Travel around our once natural and beautiful Caribbean and what do you see? Our landscapes are now punctuated with the KFC, Macdonald’s, TGI Friday and several international brands which bring its menu of junk. Let us not forget the proliferation of American channels on our cable services which continue to exert tremendous influence on the minds of our people. We definitely have to contend with the ease with which our West Indian culture is being watered down at the expense of integrating into the First World economy.
What a price we continue to pay!
We hate to preach doom and gloom but the testicular fortitude (not a chauvinistic remark) which is required by our leaders to erect some barriers which will protect our people from themselves appear to be dream at this point.
- A society which demands that we spend hours in a vehicle to move around our respective islands should be examined
- The cost of food associated with healthy living must be placed within reach of the majority of our people
- Resist the lobby and tax alcohol and cigarettes out of existence
- Reduce or remove the taxes on bicycles, scooters, motorbikes, running shoes, etc
- Make tax credits available for those people who successfully complete healthy living programs. The programs can be facilitated by certified health instructors, dietitians, etc. We are sure a system can be hammered out.
- Encourage corporate entities, Trade Unions, NGOs through suasion and other means to get on board.
The rhetoric needs to stop, our leaders need to lead.