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Assessing Health Risks

The newly-established Non-communicable Disease Risk Factor Survey Coordinating Committee met for the first time this month. Front row from left to right: HSA GP Coordinator and Chairperson Dr. Anna Matthews; Minister of Health the Hon. Mark Scotland, and Chief Officer for Health Jennifer Ahearn. At back from left to right are HSA Medical Director Dr. Greg Hoeksema; HSA Nurse Manager, Primary Health Care Karen Clayton-Babb; HSA Chief Nursing Officer Hazel Brown; Deputy Chief Officer for Health Stran Bodden; HSA Cancer Registrar, Milena Conolly; Dr. Sidney Ebanks; Ministry of Health Senior Policy Analyst Janett Flynn; Economic and Statistics Deputy Director Elizabeth Talbert, and HSA Public Health Surveillance Officer Timothy McLaughlin. Medical Officer for Health Dr. Kiran Kumar, HSA Community Nutritionist Bethany Smith, HSA Internist, Dr. Adedayo and Dr. Gerald Smith were absent.

As part of its ongoing efforts to curb chronic disease, the Ministry of Health has established a new committee to spearhead a national risk factor survey that will allow health authorities to pro-actively address such burdensome chronic risks.

"It is predicted that by 2020 – a mere decade from now - heart disease, cancers and diabetes will account for sixty percent of illnesses. Already some six percent of our population has diabetes and twelve percent of residents have been diagnosed with high blood pressure.

"Further, with more than 37 percent of our teenagers classified as being overweight or obese, as a country we undoubtedly face serious health threats. If we fail to reverse such trends, our national health systems will be severely stressed and there will be significant negative economic and social consequences," said Health Minister the Hon Mark Scotland.

According to the minister, a risk factor survey will allow health professionals to identify specific issues that are contributing to the rapid local rise in chronic disease. These may include physical inactivity, smoking, poor nutrition and alcohol abuse.

"One of the first steps in fighting this growing epidemic is accessing reliable statistics instead of relying on anecdotal evidence. With the information gained from sound baseline studies, our health partners can use their limited resources for targeted interventions," Mr. Scotland explained.

The Non-communicable Disease Risk Survey Committee was formed from a cross-section of agencies and includes experts on public health, epidemiology, survey and statistics and clinical issues.

The committee will follow the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO)'s Stepwise Approach to Chronic Non-communicable Disease Risk-Factor Surveillance (STEPS) to establish a framework for Cayman's own survey model.

"Up-to-date information is vital when it comes to preventing and treating disease. As such, the committee's main objective is to oversee practical and logistical issues relating to the implementation of a local STEPS protocol," explained Committee Chairperson and Health Services Authority General Practice Coordinator Dr. Anna Matthews.

Other core roles include acting as an advocacy body for chronic disease surveillance, establishing cross-agency partnerships to increase capacity for ongoing chronic disease risk factors surveillance, and assisting in translating the data into policy and programmes.

(GIS)

For further information contact: Cornelia Oliver