a civil society alliance for combatting chronic disease in the caribbean

Healthy Caribbean Coalition - Cardiovascular disease taking a heavy toll

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Jamaica Observer Editorial - Thursday, November 11, 2010

CARDIOVASCULAR disease (CVD), which refers to cardiac disease, vascular diseases of the brain and kidney and peripheral vascular disease, is often thought to be a problem of wealthy, industrialised countries.

But it is the leading cause of death worldwide, with major impact not only on developed nations but also on low and middle-income developing countries, where it accounts for 30 per cent of all deaths.

It is important to note that in Jamaica, cardiovascular disease is the second leading cause of death, at a rate of 84.6 per 100,000 of population.

The occurrence of CVD can have devastating effect on individuals and families, changing or destroying their actual and potential standard of living and having collateral damage to Jamaica in the form of the cost of treatment and the loss of productive activity. Poverty can be both a contributing cause and a consequence of CVD.

Regrettably, in Jamaica we do not take this burgeoning problem seriously enough. The result is a mismatch between the extent of the problem and the lack of concrete steps to increase investment and implement prevention and disease management efforts.

This inadequate recognition of the nature and size of the problem is common to nearly all developing countries, thereby making it not only an issue for the poor but for the entire global community, especially because of the ever increasing flows of people, both temporary and migratory.

In resource-constrained developing countries, the answer to more attention cannot be only more expenditure on CVD but must involve more effectively "mainstreaming" the prevention and treatment of CVD into the overall healthcare policy. This approach not only strengthens the capacity to grapple with CVD but will reduce the deleterious impact of CVD on other aspects of health, such as diabetes, dialysis and high blood pressure.

The control of the incidence of CVD is the responsibility of each and everyone and cannot be left to the public healthcare system. Public education is key because a dollar spent on prevention will save lives and millions of dollars. We hardly pay attention to CVD until it hits us. It is critical that we inform ourselves and adopt a lifestyle which minimises the risk of CVD. This involves diet, especially foods that contract arteries and lead to the formation of cholesterol; no smoking, exercise and annual medical check-ups. Obesity significantly increases the risk of CVD and as we have pointed out in this space, obesity is a problem which weighs increasingly heavy on Jamaicans, in particular our women.

To be on top of this issue, we must get from our Government clear direction; allocation of adequate resources, including from international sources; clear goals, pragmatic policies, political leadership, education in the media and consistent involvement by stakeholders in the medical fraternity and the populace at large.

We note the compelling epidemiological evidence provided in the West Indian Medical Journal, underlining the need for more in-depth research, as the basis for more efficacious CVD intervention policy.

We also support the recommendation in the recently published 500-page report on "Promoting Cardiovascular Health in Developing Countries" by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, that countries embrace the value of international collaboration and exchange, in fighting CVD.

We don't have to reinvent the wheel.

First Published here -  www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Cardiovascular-disease-taking-a-heavy-toll_8140754

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