Jamaicans Need To Engage In Healthy Lifestyles To Reduce Diabetes – Health Minister

Dr. Christopher Tufton

Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. Christopher Tufton, says persons need to engage in healthy behaviours to reduce the incidence of diabetes and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

Dr. Tufton is placing emphasis on younger persons based on statistics, which indicate that behaviours among children and adolescents that increase the risk factors for the disease are particularly concerning.

In a message to mark World Diabetes Day, which was observed on Saturday, November 14, the Minister lamented that children are not immune to getting diabetes and that some risk factors have been found to be significantly associated with overweight/obesity among children aged six to 10 years.

These include “increases in the consumption of sweetened beverages, limited fruit and water intake, in addition to low physical activity levels”.

Dr. Tufton quoted statistics from The Global School-based Health Surveys (GSHS, 2010 and 2017), which indicate that the rates of overweight and obesity are trending upwards, with an overall increase in rates among adolescents in the last decade.

“Unfortunately, nearly 50 per cent of Jamaican students consume carbonated beverages or sweetened beverages two or more times per day (Jamaica Youth Risk and Resiliency Behaviour Survey, 2007); GSHS (2010 and 2017) and 68 per cent of Jamaican students aged 13 to15 years are reported to drink carbonated drinks one or more times per day (GSHS, 2017),” he explained.

The Minister pointed to data from the 2016-2017 Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey (JHLS III), which also show that one in two Jamaicans are overweight or obese.

Obesity is a known modifiable risk factor for diabetes and other non-communicable diseases, which means that these risk factors, which are the behaviours and exposures that can raise or lower a person’s risk of getting the disease, can be changed.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 422 million people globally have diabetes, the majority being from low and middle-income countries such as Jamaica, while 1.6 million deaths are directly attributed to the disease.

Dr. Tufton stated that JHLS III reveals that one in every eight Jamaicans, 15 years and older, has diabetes, and that four out of every 10 individuals with the disease are unaware that they have it.

World Diabetes Day was observed under the theme ‘Diabetes: Nurses make a Difference’.