Caribbean Wellness Day 2015 – A Focus On Healthy Ageing

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Saturday, September 12 marked the eighth observance of Caribbean Wellness Day across the region. Inaugurated in 2008, Caribbean Wellness Day is an annual event which provides an opportunity to increase the awareness of the non-communicable diseases (NCDs) burden in the Caribbean; mobilise and strengthen public, private, and civil society partnerships for NCDs; promote multi-country, multisectoral activities in support of wellness; and showcase national and community level activities to promote healthy living and encourage residents to develop good health practices.

This year’s focus was on the elderly, under the theme ‘Improving the quality of life of the Region’s ageing population.’ Locally, the Ministry of Health (MOH) partnered with the National Council for Senior Citizens (NCSC) to mark the day. According to Dr Tamu Davidson-Sadler, MOH Acting Director for Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention, the ministry will focus on improving the quality of life of Jamaica’s ageing population through physical activity, healthy eating, mental and dental assessment, screening for NCDs and other activities.

Here are some facts about ageing in Jamaica and the Caribbean:

  1. The Caribbean has one of the fastest growing older populations in the developing world.
    • In the early 1950s:
      • Persons 60 years and over made up five per cent of the population, compared to 35 per cent  for those 0-14 years
      • Very few people in the Caribbean reached their eightieth birthday
    • In 2000
      • 10 per cent of the population in several Caribbean countries was 60 years + with two per cent being 80 years +
      • highest percentages found in Puerto Rico (14), Cuba (14), Barbados (13), Netherland Antilles (10)
      • lowest percentages found in Haiti and Belize (6) and the Dominican Republic (7)
  2. In Jamaica, the elderly now constitute 11.3 per cent of the population today, up from five per cent in 1850, and are projected to rise to 25 per cent by 2050.
  3. The majority of older persons in the Caribbean are women.
  4. Chronic diseases are a serious problem among the 60 and over population, according to the United Nations. Among Jamaican seniors, 65.4 per cent suffer from either diabetes or hypertension, and 22 per cent have both.
  5. The leading causes of morbidity, disability and premature death are chronic non-communicable diseases NCDs in the over-60 population are mostly cardio-vascular diseases, diabetes and complications (eg. renal, neurological, opthalmic), respiratory conditions and cancers.
  6. The Caribbean has taken several steps in
    • 1999 – CARICOM Regional Charter on Ageing and Health urging governments to provide a coordinated, systematic approach for ensuring health and full participation of older persons.
    • 2003 – Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) countries initiated a regional strategy to implement the 2002 Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing. However, few countries have since introduced a National Policy on Ageing.
    • 2004 – First Caribbean Symposium on Population was held in Trinidad and Tobago to enhance recognition of impact and policies for ageing of population.
    • 2005 – The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborative Center on Ageing in LAC set up at University of the West Indies (UWI, Mona)  in Jamaica.
    • Specific chronic disease drug programmes established in the region include:
      • Barbados Drug Service, 1980
      • Jamaica Drug for the Elderly Programme (JADEP), 1997 and National Health Fund, 2003
      • Trinidad & Tobago – Chronic Disease Assistance Program (CDAP), 2003
      • Bahamas – National Drug Plan, 2010

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