The onus is on an individual for their own health, former health minister Dr Fuad Khan said yesterday.
Khan said after the issue in Tobago of a shortage of space to facilitate the growing number of patients who need dialysis is not surprising, given the increase in chronic non-communicable diseases (CNCD) in TT over the past two decades.
He said there is currently only one facility, equipped with 53 spots, to service hundreds of patients on the island who require the treatment on a regular basis.
“While the secretary for Health in the Tobago Health Authority is scrambling to find a solution to the immediate problem, however, the fact remains that as long as our citizens continue to disregard their health, this CNCD epidemic will continue to plague our country and monopolise our public health resources.”
In a release yesterday, Khan said people should consider home treatment as an alternative.
The only way to prevent the situation from worsening, he said, is to educate and inform the population that they can take care of their health and prevent the need for such treatment in the future.
He said more than half the country’s adult population is overweight or obese.
“Further, 30 per cent to 60 per cent of the population do not achieve the minimum recommended levels of physical activity daily.
A survey done during his tenure as minister of health, he said, showed: “The overall prevalence of smoking was 21 per cent of the population and for alcohol consumption…40 per cent.”
Khan said 90 per cent of adults do not consume the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables daily, although the country has it in abundance. He said the results underscore the reason for the increase in non-communicable or lifestyle diseases TT has been observing over the past few years.
“CNCDs, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer account for more than half of all deaths in TT and in the Caribbean region by extension.
“The fact is, chronic non-communicable diseases share common risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and behavioural risks such as unhealthy diets and obesity, tobacco use, alcohol abuse and physical inactivity.”
Khan said at least 80 per cent of all heart disease, stroke and diabetes are preventable, as well as 40 per cent of all cancers.
Until this country finds a way to reduce the number of patients who depend on public health centres, he warned, the nation’s hospitals will remain woefully unequipped to deal with this issue.
“We need to start taking responsibility for our diet and exercise to ensure that we do not become victims of these chronic ailments.
He wanted to send a message to the public: “Increase your daily cardiac and aerobic activity, walk more, increase your fruit intake and increase your oats intake.
“At the end of the day, the onus is not on the doctors, but on yourselves to ensure that you maintain a healthy lifestyle and remain protected against these CNDCs.”