Basseterre, St. Kitts, September 29, 2016 (SKNIS): New Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Hazel Laws, said that the Ministry of Health is currently “relooking at programmes” including that of Non Communicable Disease (NCDs), “picking up the gaps and making plans in terms of addressing shortfalls or deficiencies.”
This was said by Dr. Laws on the Government Programme “Working for You,” while addressing the matter of NCDs. Formerly based at the Jamaica Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies for the past 10 years, Dr. Laws explained that her area of specialization is in public health. She said that St. Kitts and Nevis is but one territory that is affected by NCDs.
“We are not unique; all the other Caribbean territories are also battling with the health challenge of the Non Communicable Diseases,” Dr. Laws said. “The fact is it’s an issue; it’s a challenge’ it’s something that we need to tackle, because the main cause of morbidity in our adults in the Federation is as a result of the Non Communicable Diseases. The leading cause of morbidity here includes obesity – our being heavier than we ought to be; hyperlipidemia – high cholesterol levels; hypertension – those of us whose blood pressure is higher than it ought to be and diabetes.
Dr. Laws further noted that NCDs can go on to cause complications including cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attack; cerebrovascular accidents or stroke; and certain cancers. She said taking care of these individuals comes at the high cost to the Ministry of Health.
The CMO revealed that her experience includes working for a number of years in Community Health and Public Health. She said that in Jamaica she had served as the Sr. Medical Officer of Health in a health centre affixed to the University where she was in control of providing healthcare to a population of 25 – 26 thousand Jamaicans. This practical knowledge carries over to her new position.
“My role here at the Ministry of Health in St. Kitts is one of oversight, to the team of health professionals who are working in the Ministry of Health, working at the community level, delivering community-based services and working at the institutional level at the various hospitals in the Federation,” Dr. Laws said. “So I see myself providing oversight to the various health teams, delivering healthcare to the people of St. Kitts and Nevis.”
Specific to the fight against NCDs, Dr. Laws said prevention would be the first angle of attack.
“For me as I come into the Ministry of Health I want to look at prevention or prevention programmes,” she said. “What are we doing to prevent persons developing diabetes and hypertension in the first case? We need to get the word out there.”
Dr. Laws said that the possibility of working with other ministries would have to be considered.
“We also as a Ministry need to collaborate with the Ministry of Agriculture in terms of making nutritious food available and accessible to the population – food, natural food, plant-based food, ground provision – yam, banana,” she said. “These starches it is claimed is better for us than the refined foods. And so a message of lifestyle change is what we need to be getting out.”
Individuals who have already contracted NCDs were encouraged to control their conditions.
“In terms of those individuals who already have diabetes and hypertension, you know as a Ministry, as a health service, we need to be more aggressive in managing our patients to achieve better control of the blood pressure levels and the blood sugar levels,” the CMO said. “So there have to be treatment and a tightening up of our health services, where the management of our chronic disease patients is concerned. In terms of the complications, we need to prevent our patients from developing the complications – heart attack, and stroke etc. And if it comes down to patient education, self-management – we need to tell individuals that their management is not just the responsibility of the doctor and the health centre but it’s an individual responsibility.
She explained that it was important for patients to take their prescribed mediation, particularly since doing so would delay or prevent complications.