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Health minister to lead delegation to World Health Assembly


Health minister to lead delegation to World Health Assembly

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HEALTH MINISTER John Boyce will lead the Barbados delegation to the 68th World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, from Thursday this week.

There, he will join with other countries in the Caribbean region to call for a more pragmatic and systematic approach to technical and financial assistance required in the battle against non-communicable diseases.

Speaking today at the opening of a Caribbean Cancer Control Leadership Forum taking place at the Courtyard by Marriott, Boyce noted: “The challenges of public health in the region are very similar and with a collective voice we can make inroads towards the protection of public health for our people.”   

In welcoming the delegates to the workshop, the Health Minister stated that the gathering represented the region’s commitment to reversing the trends of cancer which in many member states accounted for 25 per cent of sickness and death.

In Barbados, he revealed, cancer of the prostate was responsible for 48 per cent of all cancer deaths in men, and cancer of the breast, uterus and cervix were the leading cause of cancer deaths in women, accounting for 50 per cent.

Boyce said that the World Health Organisation had indicated that up to 30 per cent of cancers were preventable by the application of simple lifestyle interventions such as eliminating the use of tobacco products, limiting alcohol consumption, increasing daily physical activity and exercise, and consuming a varied and nutritious diet.

The Health of the Nation Study carried out in Barbados in 2012 indicated that 8.9 per cent of the population smoked tobacco; 35 per cent of individuals engaged in the consumption of harmful amounts of alcohol; and only 20 per cent of Barbadians were achieving the recommended five servings of fruit and vegetables per day.

Boyce disclosed that Government was looking to forge ahead with appropriate policy and programme frameworks to create an enabling environment for prevention of cancer and other non-communicable diseases, and this was being addressed through the National Strategic Plan for Non-Communicable Diseases 2015 – 2019. Specific measures include anti-smoking legislation; national and school-based guidelines for nutritious and healthy foods; age specific guidelines for physical activity and exercise; and an action plan to reverse childhood obesity.

He added: “Therefore, our national programmes designed to fight cancer must include scaled up efforts with respect to prevention and control, while recognising the need for early screening, diagnosis, access to appropriate medical technologies and pharmaceuticals and a robust palliative care programme.”

The Caribbean Cancer Control Leadership Forum, which ends on Wednesday, is being presented by the National Cancer Institute, the Healthy Caribbean Coalition and the American Cancer Society. (BGIS)