EDITORIAL: Get more serious about healthy lifestyle
THE SEA OF PINK which adorned the Warrens area on Sunday afternoon was more than a good picture opportunity. It showed Barbadians now realise the importance of the threat of breast cancer and the need to do something positive in the fight against this disease. This massive coming out should in reality be just the start of a national movement against the non-communicable diseases which so badly affect too many across this island.
For years many Barbadians ignored breast cancer. Too many felt it was just a woman’s disease; a similar number felt it was only of importance and concern to the victim. But thanks to the public awareness of advocacy groups, the boldness of a few victims to speak out and the realisation that we must all fight back against the disease, there has been a change in attitude and approach.
But this initiative against breast cancer needs to be taken much further as too many people are suffering with or dying from NCDs – cancers, chronic respiratory illnesses, hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The dangers they pose must by now be well known to most Barbadians given the often repeated messages of the ill-effects these illnesses cause to individuals and the national economy. The message has been clear: reduce harmful use of alcohol, eliminate tobacco usage, increase physical activity, lower salt or sodium intake and eat healthy foods. It is not an esoteric situation we face and certainly not one with a never-ending list of things which we expect Government to do.
The problem is that we are simply too slow to turn the talk into action. It is doubtful the message is getting through given the increasing waistlines, the rising level of obesity amongst children and the worrisome number of people being affected by diabetes and all its related problems.
Corporate Barbados – regardless of size – needs to reach out and help arrest a problem which will in the long term will affect it. Food processors, cook shops, and homes all need to cut back on salt, sugars and all the other negatives. From the school meals service to the fast food outlets there must be customer satisfaction and not customer destruction, while employers should embrace structured healthy lifestyle programmes as part of their operations. It will be money well spent.
There is also a clear link between local agriculture and food production, ensuring a safe clean water supply and maintaining a healthy environment in the fight against NCDs which are barriers to economic development and have the potential to undermine the economic and social progress of recent decades. These diseases are generally caused and can therefore be effectively solved.
The response on Sunday shows some hope.