KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, March 19, IWN — Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has lauded primary and secondary health care here but said “developed countries diseases” continue to be a challenge.
“These are hypertension, diabetes, cardiac problems and, of course, accidents and criminal violence,” he said Monday on the Northern Grenadine island of Bequia, where a health centre was opened.
He said the number of Vincentians affected with diabetes and hypertension is “just too high.
“We are not eating properly and we are not exercising,” Gonsalves said, adding that he is “not a full and proper example to be talking about this subject.
“But in this dialogue, we have to be critical and self-critical,” he said, adding that he has a normal blood pressure.
“And then, of course, we can’t be smoking the way we’re smoking. I don’t smoke and I don’t drink alcohol … and my sugar level is good,” he said, adding that sugar is a cheap source of energy for children.
“It is a cheap source, but that doesn’t mean they have to drink every Busta in sight. … And [it] doesn’t mean they have to go and eat every fast food that exists. “Which means you have run on the beach, you have to swim …” he further said.
Gonsalves further encouraged citizens to participate in community groups for persons with hypertension and diabetes.
“Get involved with them, because, if you get involved with them and you work with them, they can save you from getting an amputation.
“There are so many people you go to the hospital to see, they’re getting amputations because of the diabetes. And the diabetes combined also with the hypertension creates real problems for them.
“So, I am pleading with you on those things. And the parents, try really to make sure the children stay off too many of the soft drinks and too many of the sweets.”
Gonsalves, who is also Minister of National Security, said the issue of criminal violence “is a serious business”.
“And that’s why we have to take the strong position that we take on these matters, legislatively and also in terms of the police,” he said.
“There is a particular species of communicable disease — HIV and AIDS. No disease is too bad for anybody too good to get. Of course, all persons who have tested HIV positive, we give free anti-retroviral drugs to them and the treatment is improving, but this is an area where you have to be very careful because it is a potential death sentence.”
He said that while accidents and criminal violence are not normally put in the category of non-communicable disease, the number of vehicles in this country has increased four-fold over the last 12 years even as roads remain unchanged.
Gonsalves was sustained injuries to the mouth and other parts of his body in an accident involving his SUV and a truck in 2007.
“… after I was nearly killed in 2007 with a big truck on a public holiday, I try to stay off the road. I personally, I am not advising you to do that because people have to go to picnics and so on,” Gonsalves said.
“We have evolved a good public health system, a good primary health system, a sound secondary healthcare system,” he said, adding that the Government gets assistance with the secondary and tertiary healthcare system.