An action plan for Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases

Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases (CNCD) came in for sharp focus at a two-day consultation organised by the PAN American Health Organisation. The aptly named, “National Stakeholders Consultation on Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases Policy and Multi-Sectoral Action Plan” brought together a cross section of participants including the Ministry of Agriculture, Education, Health, Social Transformation, the Saint Lucia Blind Welfare Association, Diabetes and Hypertension Association, the Lung and Heart Association and faith-based organisations.

Nurse Julieta Joseph, Assistant Principal Nursing Officer in the Ministry of Health, acknowledged that Globally CNCDs rank as the number one killer with the same trend reflected in Saint Lucia.

“We have diseases such as diabetes, hypertension or cardiovascular diseases. We also have cancers and other upper respiratory diseases, for example asthma. These are the number one killers in Saint Lucia, cancer being the most common, and because of that we see almost eight percent of the population in Saint Lucia having diabetes.”

Some of the stakeholders attending last week’s consultation.

Some of the stakeholders attending last week’s consultation.

Joseph asserted that the coming together of all ministries and organisations to combat this national problem caused by CNCD can realise positive outcomes for the nation.

“We may not be able to make CNCDs disappear, although that’s our goal, but at least we can reduce the incidence and prevalence of CNCDs in Saint Lucia. So the Ministry of Health is taking this very seriously because we cannot do it alone, because we have recognized that the inputs and partnerships with other stakeholders are critical for reducing CNCDs. That’s the reason we have developed a multi-sectoral action plan and today we are here as stakeholders to discuss this action plan, to review it for people to be aware of their roles and responsibilities and to give consensus and commitment to this multi-sectoral action plan.”

Dr. Tomo Kanda, PAHO’s Adviser on Non-Communicable Diseases, says this multi-sectoral action plan should span five years from 2016 – 2020. She stated that the prevention and control of CNCDs should not reside solely with the Ministry of Health; what is required is the cooperation, partnership and commitment from other stakeholders.

“Saint Lucia has been increasing in morbidity, mortality because of non-communicable diseases particularly because of unhealthy food, physical inactivity, alcohol consumption and tobacco. So I think this is a time for Saint Lucia to act together.”

The multi-sectoral action plan will focus on four major strategic lines of action including coordination, reduction of risk factors and improvement of protective factors, health system response to NCDs and risk factors and surveillance.

Dr. Kanda said, “In most of the Eastern Caribbean countries the NCD programme is getting stronger. However, two extreme populations are still neglected: child and youth adolescents and elderly people. Elderly people living with chronic diseases is sometimes beyond adults living with chronic diseases … St. Lucia has been working very hard; how we can collect quality data and how we can best utilize this collected data for timely, effective policy development.”

It is expected that the final policy and multi-sectoral action plan will be submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers for final approval. The workshop was held at the Cardinal Kelvin Felix Pastoral Centre on April 27th and 28th, 2016.

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