The Bahamas is still one of “the fattest nations” in the world as at least 71.6 percent of the Bahamian population is overweight, Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said yesterday.
His comments came during the launch of the 2019 STEPS survey, which surveyed 3,840 individuals throughout The Bahamas in order to get “greater insights into our national non-communicable disease (NCD) profile”.
“It is not surprising then that The Bahamas continues to rank among the fattest nations in the region of the Americas and on planet Earth,” Sands said.
“With 71.6 percent of Bahamians overweight, our little nation almost doubles that of the global prevalence, which sits at 39 percent.
“Our closest rival in the Caribbean is Barbados and in the region is the U.S.A. with 64.9 percent and 71.6 percent of their populations being overweight, respectively. The South Pacific islands have the highest overweight prevalence in the world (76.1 percent).”
According to the survey, 43.7 percent of the population is obese.
Bahamians have high daily intakes of sugar and salt, according to Sands.
Twenty percent of Bahamians drink sugary drinks every day and 64.9 percent of survey participants admitted that they “always” add salt or salty seasoning when cooking.
The survey also revealed that at least 38 percent of the population has high blood pressure but is unaware of it.
It noted that one in 12 Bahamians who are over the age of 40 will have a stroke or heart attack in the next decade.
Sands said 26 percent of the Bahamian population is diabetic.
“Bahamaland, when these are all mixed and kneaded together, what we have are the components of a perfect storm that we cannot rebuke, cancel or bind up,” he said.
“The gravity of our NCD epidemic has occupied tremendous space in our social discourse but has not galvanized enough action. In truth, we predominantly view NCDs and their risk factors as externalities – as things that affect them and not me – and that they are collateral damage for the elderly, not those in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s.”
At least 19.4 percent of individuals have driven in a vehicle where the driver had more than two alcoholic beverages.
Roughly six percent of the population has “seriously considered” committing suicide, with 2.6 percent of those individuals making an actual plan to do so.
Sands said the Ministry of Health has taken several steps in an attempt to address “our NCD burden”.
“My ministry continues to make available to the public primary care services for health preservation and maintenance,” he said.
“That is, we provide doctors and nurses to ensure the public has opportunities to get annual screenings and arrest problems before they arise; and if a problem does arise, to partner with you in managing it. My ministry has recommended revisions to the breadbasket to ensure healthier food options are price-protected.”
Sands said the ministry has also launched a show to influence Bahamians to prepare and eat healthier food.
He said the ministry continues to promote the availability of locally-grown produce.
“These upstream, preventative initiatives are complemented by my ministry’s institution of podiatry services at the community clinics; upgrading and expansion of imaging and diagnostic services in the public sector; launching of ‘Dry January’ to encourage persons to reduce alcohol consumption; facilitating smoking cessation workshops and counseling moments; [and] piloting a Bahamas national wellness program across three pilot groups,” Sands said.
“The results of this are pending.”