Home » Declare NCDs in SIDS a global health emergency – Tufton

Declare NCDs in SIDS a global health emergency – Tufton

Declare NCDs in SIDS a global health emergency – Tufton

 

Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton (File photo)

 

Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton (File photo)

Minister of Health & Wellness Christopher Tufton emphasizes the need for a stronger response to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in small island developing states (SIDS) by declaring it a global health emergency. Tufton made these remarks while addressing the PAHO Executive Committee in Washington DC, where he highlighted the alarming impact of NCDs on SIDS.

Tufton drew attention to the fact that even during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, more individuals died from hypertension than from COVID-19. Globally, raised blood pressure is responsible for approximately 7.5 million deaths each year, whereas COVID-19 claimed 1.9, 3.5, and 1.2 million lives in 2020, 2021, and 2022, respectively.

The discussion took place following the SIDS Ministerial Conference on NCDs and Mental Health, held in Barbados from June 14 to 16. The conference produced the Bridgetown Declaration as its outcome document. However, Minister Tufton believes that the declaration may not have fully conveyed the urgency of declaring NCDs in SIDS as a global health emergency.

Tufton emphasized the need to establish a conducive environment for implementing and sustaining targeted interventions in SIDS, prioritizing human development in the response to NCDs. He stressed the importance of reforming the food system, citing the lack of food sovereignty in SIDS as a driving factor for NCD vulnerabilities and burdens. He expressed concern over the World Trade Organisation’s facilitation and encouragement of unhealthy food imports, which contribute to unhealthy diets—one of the major risk factors for NCDs.

The Minister highlighted the debilitating effects of NCDs, leading to premature mortality, increased morbidity, exacerbated poverty, inequality, reduced productivity, and diminished quality of life, particularly among individuals with limited resources.

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Tufton acknowledged the existing foundation in SIDS for addressing NCDs, as reflected in the Bridgetown Declaration. He emphasized the importance of developing tailored initiatives that align with the specific needs of individual countries and called for increased support from international organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO) and PAHO.

Minister Tufton underscored the pivotal role of health ministers in responding to NCDs and proposed the establishment of an institutional SIDS-NCD driver. This mechanism, possibly an expansion of COHSOD or supported by PAHO/WHO, would enable SIDS health ministers to convene and discuss progress on addressing NCDs. He advocated for the inclusion of civil society and individuals living with NCDs, as well as engagement with the private sector in implementing prioritized policies determined by governments and their agencies.

In summary, Minister Tufton emphasizes the urgent need to declare NCDs in SIDS as a global health emergency, highlighting the higher mortality rates from hypertension compared to COVID-19. He calls for tailored interventions, including food system reform, to address NCD vulnerabilities. The Minister also advocates for greater collaboration among SIDS health ministers, international organizations, civil society, and the private sector to effectively respond to the NCD crisis.

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