The Ministry of Health and Wellness will be undertaking the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) “STEPS” survey for a period of eight weeks starting in June 2023.
The WHO’s STEPwise approach to surveillance (STEPS) is an internationally comparable, standardised and integrated surveillance tool through which countries can collect, analyse and disseminate core information on noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). NCDs are disease that are spread not through infection, or from person to person, but are usually linked to health-related behaviours. Cardiovascular (heart) diseases, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases and cancer account for the majority of NCD deaths globally.
“Understanding the true picture of NCDs within our islands has been a key priority of my Ministry since I took up office in April 2021,” states Hon. Sabrina Turner, MP, Minister for Health and Wellness. “We cannot get to that place of clarity without reliable and relevant data, which is why undertaking this national survey is so important,” Minister Turner adds.
Unlike other surveys, STEPS is conducted in three parts (or steps). STEP 1 is made up of a questionnaire where participants report on their own health. “STEP 1 allows us to gather information directly from participants to assess genetic factors, health behaviours and lifestyle choices, for example diet or tobacco use, that can be risk factors for noncommunicable diseases, so it’s helpful to understand the prevalence of those risk factors in the population.,” Rachel Corbett, National Epidemiologist, explains.
STEP 2 of the survey consists of basic measurements that will be taken in the participant’s home. This will include a blood pressure reading as well as a weight and height measurements. STEP 3 consists of a finger prick blood test to measure blood glucose and cholesterol levels.
“The STEPS methodology is a holistic way to gather information that will have a direct impact on how we understand the health of the nation,” add Dr Nick Gent, Chief Medical Officer. “We cannot strengthen public health nationally without having reliable data, and the STEPS survey will help us address that gap.”
The eight (8) week survey will be conducted with a sample size of 3,300 households, of which one person aged 18 -69 will be randomly selected from each household to participate. The survey will incorporate households within all three islands, proportionately with each island’s population. The Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) are providing technical assistance and guidance to the Ministry of Health and Wellness throughout the survey process.
Starting next week, the team from the Ministry of Health and Wellness will be launching an awareness and education campaign that will include more detailed information on the survey and what residents can expect when it begins. Along with appearances on local radio shows, public service announcements, and a social media campaign, the team will also be announcing district meetings and virtual information sessions to answer questions from the community.
“It is important to reiterate from now that the information gathered via the STEPS survey will be collate, sorted and reported in keeping with international best practices and data protection legislation,” Minister Turner adds. “This means that data will be anonymised and no one will be able to identify anyone’s personal responses and results. I want to make this clear so that people are not dissuaded from participating due to misinformation. If we, as a people, really want to see a robust health system that adequately addresses the needs of our population we need to take a data-driven approach to decision making and programming, and this requires participation from our population as they are the keepers of this data.”
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