Tuesday, December 6, 2011

People of the Caribbean: Living longer BUT with chronic diseases


Jamaicans and other citizens of the Eastern Caribbean are living longer than ever before, which is always good news. All six Organization of Eastern Caribbean State (OECS) countries experienced an increase in life expectancy at birth between 1990 and 2011, with a high of 76 in Dominica and St. Lucia.
However, this increase in life expectancy presents an unhealthy problem, because quality of life in the Eastern Caribbean is rapidly decreasing. New research from the World Bank informs that Jamaicans and other counties of the OECS are facing a health crisis with the increasing prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). These diseases include heart disease, obesity and diabetes. NCDs are disproportionately affecting poor families; thereby, increasing rates of poverty when a large part of their income has to go to health care.

In fact, the annual cost for treating an individual with diabetes ranges from US$322 to US$769 in the OECS. This amount is more than double in the currency of these countries, which presents another burden. In fact, data from ST. Lucia show that individuals living with a non-communicable disease spend 36% of their total household expenditure annually for health care. Poorer households spend 48% of their per capita expenditure, while wealthier households spend less than 20% on health care. The problem that is presented here is a widening gap between the rich and poor.

Worldwide there is an increase in non-communicable diseases, but the region with the largest increase are in low and middle income countries, which is representative of many countries of the Caribbean.

Chronic diseases in the Caribbean from World Bank on Vimeo.

These are the facts: Now what? How can we as a people, ensure that non-communicable diseases are NOT threatening this increase in life expectancy?  

 For more information on NCDs in the Caribbean visit http://www.healthycaribbean.org/

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