Trinidad and Tobago: civil society rises to the NCD challenge
The multisectoral response to the NCD epidemic in Trinidad and Tobago was given a welcome boost recently when a host of civil society organisations met in Port of Spain to discuss accelerating action against chronic diseases.
Held on July 28, the meeting brought together some 50 dieticians, faith-based organisations, campaigning charities, disability action groups, the national Olympic Committee, youth groups, communications agencies, drug awareness groups, the Mothers’ Union and the Breastfeeding Association, among others. They were joined by traditional health NGOs, representatives of the Ministry of Health and the newly formed Trinidad and Tobago NCD Alliance.
It was widely agreed that such a multisectoral gathering reflected the need for the NCD response to encompass all of society and go beyond the health sector. The core ideas of Health in All Policies and an all-of-government approach were reinforced, alongside the importance of looking at the social determinants of health; the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age. Through this prism, the socio-economic and environmental circumstances of individuals and communities play a large part in determining health outcomes.
The extent of the NCD epidemic in Trinidad and Tobago was laid bare in stark detail. The country is the worst affected in a heavily burdened region and has the highest rates of premature mortality. More people die from heart attacks, strokes and cancers than anywhere else in the Americas. Diabetes mortality is in fact eight times higher than in North America.
In a series of lively discussions participants said it was imperative that Trinidad and Tobago loses its unenviable title as the Caribbean’s leader in NCDs. The findings of a wide-ranging evaluation of the 2007 CARICOM Port of Spain Heads of Government Declaration on NCDs were presented, risk factors revealed and a way forward for the country and the region mapped out.
Presentations were made by Dr Alafia Samuels, head of the Port of Spain NCD evaluation, Ms. Yvonne Lewis, Director of Health Education at the Ministry of Health and Dr Karen Sealey, International Health Consultant and Coordinator of the TT NCD Alliance.
Participants shared experiences and ideas extensively and offered overwhelming support for the Trinidad and Tobago NCD Alliance. There were a number of practical suggestions offered, such as an e-newsletter to keep everyone informed of developments and activities and making available an extensive set of PowerPoint slides that can be used to spread the NCD message and strengthen the challenge to a growing epidemic.
Download Dr. Alafia Samuels presentation here: Social and Structural Determinants of Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) – Lessons from the evaluation of the 2007 CARICOM Heads of Government NCD Summit Declaration
Images from the meeting.