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January 30, 2013
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Non-communicable diseases cause most deaths in Jamaica

Minister of Health, Dr. Fenton Ferguson, says that over half of Jamaica's deaths are caused by non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and injuries, a situation that is threatening the country's economic and social development.

In explaining the impact of the shift in Jamaica's morbidity profile, the health minister said these illnesses cost much more to treat, with punishing results for the victims and their families.

He stated that NCDs are responsible for 56 per cent of Jamaican deaths, of which 20 per cent are caused by cancers.

Dr. Ferguson made the disclosure while delivering the opening address on Friday, at the 11th Annual Caribbean Neurosciences Symposium and Workshop, being held at the Montego Bay Convention Centre. The event took place from January 24 to 27.

"Chronic non-communicable diseases alone cost the Ministry of Health over US$170 million to treat annually, and while the ministry is committed to providing the level of care required, there is a serious disparity in terms of the opportunity cost of treating these avoidable illnesses and their complications," he stated.

Quoting statistics which shows the growing scale of the increase in non-communicable diseases in the country between the year 2000 and 2008, Dr. Ferguson equated non-communicable diseases to poverty, adding that they both create a vicious cycle.

He said that surveys have shown that men and women are affected differently by the risk factors associated with non-communicable diseases.

"NCDs cost throw persons into poverty, who are just on the edge, and now impacts significantly on all levels of health services, health care cost and the health workforce, as well as national productivity in both emerging and established economies," he stated.

The health minister added that there are "a host of other debilitating economic effects of NCDs, which includes the effects of premature mortality, which reduces the labour supply and productivity and weakens the return on investments in human capital such as education".

He stated that it will take a concerted effort from government and the society to put policies in place to solve the problems caused by the NCDs in a cost-effective way.

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