Sargeant, Lincoln A.; Wilks, Rainford J.; Forrester, Terrence E.
Author Affiliation, Ana.
Tropical Medicine Research Institute
Chronic diseases--facing a public health challenge
West Indian Medical Journal
Date of Publication
50 Suppl 4
Caribbean countries now find themselves grappling with the burden of chronic non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes mellitus and cancer. There are good data to support the view that some of these diseases, in particular diabetes mellitus, have assumed epidemic proportions and there is concern that this fact may have been missed by many because of the surreptitious onset, as is the nature of the chronic diseases. The impact of this epidemic may have suffered because of the higher profile of more topical issues like HIV/AIDS even though the former makes a larger contribution to morbidity and mortality statistics. Lifestyle changes are the major contributors to the epidemic. In populations of similar genetic stock, living in significantly different socio-economic circumstances, the impact of increased dietary salt, increasing obesity and decreased physical activity on the prevalence of hypertension, diabetes mellitus and lipid disorders is unequivocal. Data from the developed world, which has already been through this epidemic of chronic diseases, have shown that increasing technological advances in medical care is an inefficient way to respond to the situation. A multi-sectoral approach is required to tackle this epidemic, including the provision of incentives for healthy eating and widespread opportunities for increased exercise and other physical activities. Continued research into the evolution of the epidemic, including reliable estimates via surveillance methods is a necessary component of our response. The problems and the solutions are not only the responsibilities of the health officials but must involve education, agriculture and other sectors of the economy.....