‘A tsunami of deaths’

Non-communicable diseases (NCD) like diabetes and cancer accounted for 74 percent of deaths in The Bahamas in 2016, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Nearly 1,800 people in The Bahamas died from NCDs that year — 890 men and 880 women.

According to the report, NCDs accounted for 72 percent of deaths in 2012.

WHO noted that “key behavioral risk factors including harmful use of alcohol, tobacco use, dietary behavior and physical inactivity” were likely to blame for the increase in NCD-related deaths globally.

“The profiles also provide data on the key metabolic risk factors, namely raised blood pressure, raised blood glucose and obesity,” the report noted.

“Globally, one in four men and one in five women (22 percent of adults aged 18 years and over) had raised blood pressure in 2015. Prevalence of raised blood pressure in adults has declined in high-income countries over the last few decades, however, it has been stable or increasing in many low-and middle-income countries.

“The prevalence of raised blood glucose worldwide in 2014 was estimated at nine percent. The number of people with diabetes has nearly quadrupled since 1980.”

According to the report, cardiovascular diseases accounted for 30 percent of the deaths in The Bahamas, whereas cancers accounted for 22 percent.

It also noted that five percent of the deaths were a result of diabetes.

Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said the government is attempting to stop the “tsunami” of NCD-related-deaths.

“The problem is we have not turned the tide,” he said.

Sands added, “The Bahamas is punching well above its weight in terms of the number of deaths and disability due to non-communicable diseases. In other words, the choices that we make or that we don’t make…are killings us.

“So, a disproportionate number of Bahamians die because of the consequences of non-communicable diseases: obesity, hypertension, heart disease, kidney failure, lung disorders. We are bearing a bigger burden than most other countries in the world. That is a dubious distinction.

“It has consequences in terms of the cost of healthcare and it…forces us to double down on the provision of universal healthcare services, primary healthcare services [and] preventative strategies.”

Bahamians between 30 and 70 have a 15 percent chance of dying prematurely from NCDs, according to WHO.

Sands said the Ministry of Health is still compiling NCD mortality figures from 2017 and 2018.

He said it is likely the data will be released later this month as a part of the STEPS Survey.

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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