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CAYMAN’S NATIONAL HEALTH CHECK

Health Care 15 May, 2023 Follow News

CAYMAN’S NATIONAL HEALTH CHECK

Cayman Conversations

The Ministry of Health and Wellness will be conducting a national health survey from 5th June to 31st July 2023 to determine the prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and their risk factors within the Cayman Islands.

Information from the STEPS survey will inform on the current health status of the Cayman Islands regarding NCDs, and the public is encouraged to fully participate so that an accurate picture can be determined.

With current evidence suggesting that generally, the national health is a cause for concern, the MHW said the information collected will be used by the Public Health team to guide interventions and prevention efforts.

Of particular concern are diabetes, high blood pressure and chronic lung illnesses.

PUBLIC PARTICIPATION URGED

Chief Medical Officer Dr Nick Gent is urging the Cayman public to fully participate in the exercise which is being carried out with a series of random surveys and tests.

He explained how the process works and the importance of it to Ralph Lewis on the Cayman Times on the programme Cayman Conversations.

“These are diseases which are primarily linked to our lifestyle. The big group of diseases includes heart disease, diabetes, and various respiratory diseases. These are the ones that dominate the causes, not just dying too early but also of loss of quality of life.”

The randomly conducted STEP survey is done in three phases or steps. The first part involves a questionnaire, and the second segment is taking some basic measurements. These are done in the homes of the participants. The third or clinical phase involves a finger-prick blood measurement. This requires fasting and thus will require an early morning appointment.

The Ministry of Health and Wellness explains that interviewers and participants will determine what method works best from several options. These include a healthcare worker visiting the participant’s home at an agreed time to do the tests or having the participant attend an HSA clinic

It says the aim is to make full participation in the survey as easy as possible for the participants.

Dr Gent gave further detail on how the tests will be carried out and the importance of ensuring that the data is accurate.

“The survey is done on a group of randomised households across all three islands, making sure that there’s representation from all of the districts. The team go to those households, knock on the door and finds out who’s there. The computer then randomises one person from the household to take part in the survey. This randomization is really important.”

The random selection, he explained, gives a more accurate picture of the state of health across the entire population than would be obtained in a health fair.

“What we need to do is make sure this is really representative so that we can look at the data and say we know that this statistically is giving us a really, really good snapshot.”

EARLY INDICATORS CONCERNING

The CMO said there are already indications that the national health is trending in the working direction even from school age.

“We’ve got good health services but they are predominantly dealing with people when they become ill and many of the determinants of that illness have been there a long time before.”

He referred to a recent survey which showed concerning levels of childhood obesity and other conditions with long-lasting - lifelong in some instances - effects and risk of complications.

“The recent data on the numbers of children entering school, (showed that many are) overweight or frankly, they are obese. Those figures were quite disturbing. And we know that is setting people up for a lifetime where they get degenerative diseases or have a much higher risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.”

 According to Dr Gent, this makes the need for the STEPS survey even more urgent.

“So instead of just being better at treating people or when they become ill, - and frankly, a lot of these conditions we can’t reverse. We can we can we can put a brake on them but we can’t we can’t turn back all these years. A lot of what we’re dealing with in the STEP survey is mainly out just how bad the problems are, what scale of intervention we need, where the population is that needs that intervention so that we can then do that targeting properly.”

A statement from the Ministry of Health and Wellness said the information from the survey “can be used to inform healthcare planning and resourcing in the Cayman Islands.”

“As health is something which affects all of society, results of the STEPS survey will be used to guide policy and funding decisions as the information is relevant not only for the Ministry of Health and Wellness but for several other Ministries.”

The STEPS survey into non-communicable diseases is endorsed by the World Health Organisation(WHO) under its mandate to monitor and improve the health of people around the world.

Among the major challenges are what are called lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and smoking, which in many instances result from personal choices and trends in society rather than genetic disposition.

In the case of Cayman, while other conditions are at worrying levels, smoking and its directly-related illnesses appear to be less of a challenge.


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