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World Health Day Message

Minister of Health, Environment, Youth, Sports and Culture, The Hon. Mark Scotland, JP

Minister of Health, Environment, Youth, Sports and Culture

The Hon. Mark Scotland, JP

World Health Day Message -- Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Health statistics show that globally, mankind is making encouraging strides in solving some key health problems: The number of under-nourished children is declining; more than a dozen countries have reported a 50 percent reduction in malaria cases; access to HIV/AIDS treatment in developing countries has increased, and almost a billion more people have safe drinking water than during the previous decade.

Paradoxically though, certain health risks remain and have become even more acute, including obesity, smoking and alcohol abuse. Collectively, these and other preventable risks account for over 40 percent of the 58 million annual deaths worldwide, not to mention the huge loss of healthy life years they cause.

And troublingly, local statistics confirm that Cayman is not bucking the trend:

  • Public health school entry screenings for 2008-09 revealed a looming obesity-fuelled health crisis. More than 27 percent of children under the age of 6 and almost 38 percent of school students aged between 11 and 14 are overweight.

  • Obesity increases the risk for diabetes and heart disease, and already the latter is one of the three leading causes of death in the Cayman Islands.

  • National Drug Council (NDC) figures show that some 20 percent of our population smokes regularly, with one in every five smokers consuming a pack or more of cigarettes daily. Moreover, a 2007 NDC report on student drug use confirmed a marked increase in smoking among 7th-graders - an early warning sign that future smoking rates may rise.

Ironically, these findings and risks are exacerbated by the very thing that helps curb many other health challenges - namely, urbanization.

It is therefore entirely fitting that the 2010 World Health Day will focus on how city living affects people's health. And while most persons view the Cayman lifestyle as being somewhat more laidback than is the average urban experience, even here, rapid population growth and economic development have removed us from things as simple as walking to our neighbours or - for our children - playing outside until sunset.

This year's World Health Day theme - 1000 cities, 1000 lives - thus calls us to rediscover creative and wholesome ways of relieving stress and staying healthy while living in an urban environment.

Likewise, my challenge to you is also to defy negative trends: Get out and get active, involve your family, friends and your entire community in reviving old time habits. Hide the TV remote and enjoy an ocean swim instead. Switch off the PlayStation and take your children for kite flying or build a sand castle. It might seem too good to be true, but in this instance, the first step to a healthier Cayman is just that simple!

For further information contact: Cornelia Oliver