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Health Care 27 Jul, 2023 Follow News

Chief Medical Officer, Dr Nick Gent

Cayman is on the home stretch of the important nationwide STEPS health survey and to ensure maximum participation, the project is being extended to September 3rd.

To date, over a thousand persons from randomly selected households have taken part in the first two phases of the three-part exercise which started at the beginning of June and was initially due to be completed at the end of this month.

The purpose of the exercise is to “determine the national prevalence for non-communicable diseases (NCDs), as well as their risk factors, in Cayman,” said a government statement at the launching of the project.

The last time the nationwide exercise was carried out was ten years and the data is now being updated to ensure that Cayman stays on top of trends and threats affecting the health of the population.

Collecting the data involves a three-phase process. The first and second phases have been completed and phase three is now underway.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Nick Gent and Epidemiologist with the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Rachel Corbett, have been outlining to Caymanian Times how necessary it is for the households and persons selected to participate in the third phase.

“What we’ve got is going to be useful, it will be important information, but to get that extra detail we do we do need several hundred more people to be coming through step three as well,” the CMO explained.

He assured that all the data collected from the tests being carried out is confidential and the information is analysed to get a broad understanding of the state of health of the Cayman Islands. No individual or household is identifiable in the analysis.

“It looks like we probably will get the numbers on Steps One and Two,” he said, but is concerned that Step Three is lagging at present.

“It looks like Step Three will be suboptimal, which will be a great shame because that’s probably going to be one of the most important ones to determine diabetes and prediabetes…Step Three is one of those where the information is really going to help us with some of the health care service planning and teaching.”

“We’re thankful for everyone who’s taken part and given their time,” says Epidemiologist Rachel Corbett, “We need to get a minimum of 1300 with these estimates to give us national prevalences for the whole of Cayman that reflects Cayman. We’re close to that target, so it’d be great to keep pushing and to continue to get a few more through.”

For the third phase, called Step Three, participants are invited to have an appointment with a nurse, for a basic finger-prick blood test. “It just takes about 10 minutes, so it’s very quick and then the individual gets their results back straightaway for their blood sugar and their blood cholesterol.”

According to Epidemiologist Corbett, “We’ve tailored our approach this time around to try and make that easier. We’re offering home appointments to try and make it more convenient for individuals that we can go to them, and also have facilities spread all over the island, rather than just in Georgetown.”

One issue that has arisen, is participants suggesting that the information cloud be obtained from their doctor. However, based on doctor-patient confidentiality and data protection that is not allowed.

The importance of the STEPS programme to formulating a national health strategy is key, CMO Dr Gent said. It enables the health authorities to get an early indication of where policies and resources would need to be focused. And already he said, there are some indicators of concern.

“For instance, if we uncover a problem with a lot of people with quite severe weight problems - and that that is almost certainly the case -  we’re going to need programmes that go through everything from the school ages to through to adulthood, that figure in nutrition, access to exercise, and other clinical advice and caring support.”

The CMO further stressed his commitment to ensuring the good health of the people of the Cayman Islands.

“I want Cayman to be the healthiest place in the world, not just in the Caribbean. It’s a beautiful place. And its people deserve to have the best health outcomes. But for me to be able to advocate for that, I’ve got to understand what those underlying problems are, articulate them and measure them. We can then repeat this kind of survey in 10 years time and see whether or not what we’re doing has an impact. We also need a baseline to measure whether or not we’re successful in intervening to try to put things right.”

The ongoing survey, now extended to September 3rd for data collection in Phase Three, is targeted at persons living in Cayman for at least six months and who are between 18 and 69 years old.

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