MESSAGE BY MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
HONOURABLE RONNIE W. SKELTON
IN OBSERVANCE OF
DIABETES AWARENESS MONTH
As your Minister responsible for Health and Social Services in these Virgin Islands, I must inform you that diabetes is one of the most common and costly health challenges facing the Territory today.
This year’s observance of Diabetes Awareness Month highlights the pressing need to combat the epidemic of diabetes in order to protect our future, and our children’s future. It imposes lifelong demands on people living with the condition, on their families, the community and the wider economy and requires immediate and continuous action. I therefore welcome the efforts of the BVI Diabetes Association that focus our attention on healthy eating in the fight against diabetes.
Being overweight, eating unhealthy foods, not exercising, and having high blood pressure are factors that increase the risk of developing diabetes. The most common form is Type 2 diabetes, which is sometimes called the ‘silent killer’ because it often has no symptoms in the early stages, but can lead to heart disease, nerve damage, kidney failure, blindness, erectile dysfunction, amputations and various other complications. At one time, Type 2 was referred to as ‘adult-onset’ diabetes because it was more common in people over age 45.
Sadly, the disease is now prevalent among young people, even children, because so many are overweight or obese. Research conducted in the Virgin Islands in 2009 revealed that 37 percent of students aged 13 to 15 years, and 75 percent of adults aged 25 to 64 were overweight or obese. Therefore, encouraging good habits must be a lifelong process. Getting our youth to adopt a healthy lifestyle sets the stage for them to continue maintaining healthier habits into adulthood and old age.
Diabetes is also one of the main contributing factors to kidney failure. A hemodialysis programme was started in 2000 with six stations and 7 dialysis patients. The programme now has eleven stations and accommodates 45 patients ranging in age from 24 to 80; at an annual cost of some $4 million.
The good news is that diabetes, like other non-communicable diseases (NCDs), can be prevented with healthy eating and physical activity. Studies show that people at high risk for diabetes can prevent or delay the onset of the disease just by losing 5 to 7 percent of their weight, if they are overweight. That’s 10 to 14 pounds for a 200-pound person.
To reduce the threat and impact of diabetes and other NCDs, the Ministry of Health and Social Development continues to spearhead efforts in building healthier communities.
- Under the V.I. Walk/Run Programme, 800 persons participated in a 12-week 10,000 STEPS per day challenge earlier this year, and other fitness challenges are being rolled out.
- In September, the Ministry of Education and Culture implemented a five-year Healthy Lifestyle School Intervention Programme in 14 public primary schools. The programme is designed to instill in children the knowledge, skills, and motivation for adopting positive lifestyle behaviours with particular emphasis on diet and physical activity. 700 students are taking part in the programme this year, and two additional grade levels will be included in each of the next four years. World Diabetes Day is also being promoted in schools to sensitize students to prevent ion of Type II diabetes.
- The Ministry of Health has also introduced Chronic Disease Self-Management as a key component of care; and one officer was certified as a master trainer in the Stanford University Self-Management Programme. In October, training was rolled out to several volunteers to conduct self-management sessions in their communities for persons living with chronic health conditions. Among those trained were two members of the BVI Diabetes Association.
- The BVI Health Services Authority is in the process of introducing a Chronic Care Model to improve the quality of healthcare provided to persons living with chronic diseases. The project will initially focus on improving diabetes and hypertension care.
- Fellow Virgin Islanders and friends, the Government, together with the BVI Diabetes Association as well as other partners in the Territory will continue to increase efforts to promote healthy lifestyles. As Minister for Health and Social Development who cares for your health and wellbeing, I implore and encourage you all to do your part by leading healthy lifestyles. .
I commend the Diabetes Association for its continued commitment to bring awareness about diabetes. I encourage you to utilize the services offered at the Jana Downing Diabetes Resource Centre on Lower Main Street; such as free checks for blood glucose, blood pressure and weight management. The Centre also provides practical information and support for diabetics and their caregivers, which can help you manage diabetes better, and reduce its painful and debilitating complications.
Together we can promote healthy communities and families to protect our future. Please let us do it! Thank you.