What’s killing our children? Homicide, traffic accidents among leading causes of death, report states
Older Bahamians are dying at “incredible rates” of non-communicable diseases – such as heart disease, cancer and stroke, Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said.
The statistics point to a wide-scale problem in The Bahamas and is exasperated by the things we consume and our lack of exercise.
But what is killing our children, teens and young adults?
You may be surprised to learn that the leading cause of death in male adolescents and young adults in The Bahamas is assault, according to a Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) report released this month.
Deaths due to road injuries, HIV/AIDS, musculoskeletal system and connective tissue diseases, and accidental drownings are also among the leading causes of death in people between the ages of 10 and 24.
What’s more, PAHO notes that a lot of these deaths in young people are preventable.
The reference period for the statistics on The Bahamas is 2013 to 2016.
The report, “The Health of Adolescents and Youth in the Americas: Implementation of the Regional Strategy and Plan of Action on Adolescent and Youth Health 2010-2018,” presents and analyzes the latest available data related to the health of young people from 48 countries and territories in the Americas. It includes information on what they die from, what illnesses they suffer from, their sexual and reproductive health, substance use, nutrition and levels of physical activity.
“The countries with the largest increases in homicide rates among males were Belize, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Mexico, and Peru,” the report states.
“Of particular concern was the significant increase in homicide rates among females in a number of countries, including The Bahamas, Belize, Cuba, Mexico, Paraguay, and Peru.”
Specific statistics for The Bahamas show that children between the ages of 10 and 14 die from cerebrovascular diseases at a rate of 14.8 per 100,000; homicides a rate of 7.7 per 100,000 and musculoskeletal system and connective tissue diseases at a rate of 7.7 per 100,000.
However, assault is the top killer for people between 15 and 24.
The report indicates that teens between 15 and 19 die from homicides at a rate of 80.1 per 100,000, road injuries 18.5 per 100,000 and HIV at a rate of 6.2 per 100,000.
Similarly, people between the ages of 20 and 24 died from assault at a rate of 161.4 per 100,000, HIV and other diseases at a rate of 12 per 100,000 and accidental drowning at a rate of six per 100,000.
The mortality rates are much higher for males than females in The Bahamas and across the region.
“Eighty percent of the 230,000 deaths per year of young people in the region occur among males, including nine out of ten deaths due to homicide, four out of five road transit fatalities, and three out of four suicides,” A PAHO press release states.
“Homicide rates in young men aged 10-24 years ranged from three per 100,000 in Honduras to 121.3 per 100,000 in the Bahamas in 2013-2014. For women, the rates varied from 0.2 per 100,000 in Honduras to 21.1 in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.”
As it relates to health, the report shows that a significant number of young people in the region continue to suffer from poor health, with more vulnerable groups such as indigenous, Afro-descendent, LGBTQ and migrant young people being particularly impacted.
“Countries must take action so that all young people, including the most vulnerable, have access to the health services they need, with no one left behind,” said Dr. Sonja Caffe, regional advisor on adolescent health at PAHO. “A healthier youth will ensure healthier adults in the future,” she added.
The report also indicates that a lot of teens are introduced to alcohol early.
Nearly 30 percent of males and females between the ages of 13 and 15 in The Bahamas were alcohol users at the time of the survey in 2013, which is one of the lowest rates in the Caribbean. The figure nearly doubles in St. Lucia.
More than 80 percent of teens had their first drink before the age of 14. More than 20 percent of male and female teens had been drunk before. The students report getting the alcohol from family and friends, among other avenues.
Roughly 13 percent of adolescents aged 13 to 15 use tobacco, including smoking cigarettes.
“…data for Latin America and the Caribbean suggest early initiation of the use of these psychoactive substances, with marijuana as the one most commonly used, after tobacco and alcohol, and with marked differences between countries,” the report states.
The adolescent (15-19) fertility rate (births per 1,000 women) dropped from 85.6 between 1980 to 1985 to 34.2 from 2010 to 2015. The average rate in the Caribbean between 2010 and 2015 was 60.2.
“Adolescent girls with no education or only primary education may be up to four times more likely to initiate childbearing than are girls with secondary or higher education,” the report states.
The country’s profile shows that 27.9 percent of male and females between 13 and 15 have sex. Among those students, 82 percent did so before the age of 14, and roughly 59 percent used a condom the last time they had sex.
The report concludes: “Of concern is the disproportionate risk of premature mortality among young males due to violence, including interpersonal violence and self-inflicted violence, signaling the need to intensify efforts to reach young males with health programs and services.
“Adolescent pregnancy remains unacceptably high, and those most at risk for early initiation of reproduction are poor young people, those living in rural settings, and those from indigenous and Afro-descendant communities.
“Mental health challenges and risk factors for premature death and chronic disease across the life course are highly prevalent, and show increasing trends. These include suicidal ideation and attempts, alcohol use, overweight and obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle.”