As he declared a war on non-communicable diseases (NCD) in The Bahamas, Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said yesterday that Bahamians are on average sicker than most because “our lifestyle choices are killing us”.
“This is war,” Sands said during his contribution to the 2019/2020 budget.
“We have unwittingly embraced the enemy, like a Trojan horse, the lure of pleasure.
“The old people saying, ‘if ya like it, let it kill ya’, has been to our detriment.
“Let me declare today, we are going to war with the NCDs.
“Simultaneously we shall thoroughly determine the potential impact of deliberate fiscal disincentives to unhealthy behaviors.
“We have also been considering the evidence supporting recommendations for sin taxes on sugar, alcohol, tobacco and other vices.”
Sands added that while sugar taxes are not yet ready to be implemented, his ministry will aggressively study the world’s experience for evidence-based recommendation.
He said, “Mr. Speaker, of great concern, and we should all be concerned, overweight and obesity are extremely high in The Bahamas and worsening.
“The percentage of population who was overweight reached 79.2 percent in 2012, up from 70.5 percent in 2005 with no significant difference by sex.
“We expect new data next month but have no optimism that this will improve. Four of every five Bahamians are overweight and 49.2 percent are obese.”
Sands explained that obese individuals have a higher chance of getting cancer, type 2 diabetes, renal failure and stroke.
“When we ask about the incidence of cancer in The Bahamas, our rates are already skewed simply because of our weight,” he said.
The health minister noted that Bahamians’ risk factor profile and related complications is not encouraging, given that 90 percent of Bahamians eat insufficient fruits and vegetables.
He said 72.6 percent of Bahamians have adopted a sedentary lifestyle; that 16.7 percent are current smokers; 40.8 percent are current alcohol users; 58.2 percent have an abnormally high blood pressure; and 23.9 are diabetic, with sugar.
Sands further noted that more than 600 people are on hemodialysis at an annual cost of $25 million and there are about 75 lower limb amputations each year.
“These lifestyle-related issues mean that Bahamians are on average sicker than most, require more health care services than most, die prematurely as compared to most and have health care costs that are more expensive,” he said.
“…So, let us be clear, this is not about body shaming or simply about personal choices of esthetics. We are paying an incredible toll because of our lifestyle choices and that toll is paid not just in health care costs but in a mounting pile of sick and dying Bahamians.
“Simply put our lifestyle choices are killing us.”
Four hundred and eighty two people died of cancer in The Bahamas in 2018, according to data from the World Health Organization (WHO).
The data revealed that 249 men and 233 women died of cancer in The Bahamas last year. The leading killers were prostate cancer, with 80 deaths, and breast cancer, with 77.
Additionally, there were 933 new cases of cancer in 2018.