T&T and Guyana lead the Americas in heart-related deaths, study finds


(Trinidad Express) TRINIDAD and Tobago is second behind Guyana, among the 34 countries in the Americas for the highest rates of mortality from heart diseases.

And this is said to be the result of unhealthy lifestyles, the contributing factors for which are the consumption of foods high in sugars, salt and fats, lack of physical activity, heavy alcohol consumption and smoking.

This news was presented to reporters at a press conference recently, by one member of a team looking at the progress made in the ten years since the Port of Spain declaration, on a special summit which was held to consider what the leaders concluded then was a crisis of non -communicable diseases in the region.

The summit itself had come as a result of a report produced by a team of experts, led by Sir George Alleyne, the outgoing Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, a medical scientist who was the Executive Director of the Pan American Health organisation.

Dr Alafia Samuels, who made the disclosure, is the Head of the Centre for the Study of Chronic Diseases, at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies, named to honour Sir George.  She said also that with a consumption rate of the equivalent of two soft-drinks a day for each person in the Caribbean, this is the highest of any region in the world.

Among others on the was Dr James Hospedales, Executive Director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency, one of the principal agencies treating with the effects of NCD’s across the region.

And a report tracking the progress of actions and initiatives coming out of the declaration of war, against NCD’s over the last ten years, said little progress was made on decisions to ban the promotion of tobacco products in Caricom countries. It said only Barbados, Jamaica, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago took any significant steps to create 100 per cent smoke-free places for citizens.

Caricom heads of government, meeting here at their 38th regular summit, will consider the report and its recommendations when they reconvene this morning.

It said also that from the experience based on action taken, and from studies conducted, “increased taxation on tobacco products is an effective approach to reducing consumption and raising revenue, so long as smuggling is controlled.”

Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada and Barbados were the countries in which studies were undertaken on this issue.

A plan on “the way forward on this agenda item, calls for the implementation of legislation demanding 100 percent smoke free spaces, labels with sufficiently large and graphic warnings, further increased taxation and banning of tobacco sponsorships.

The plan also calls for increased taxation on alcohol products, to arriving at a proposed 10 per cent reduction in consumption of “harmful use of alcohol.” It said the region should move to standardise the minimum alcohol purchasing and drinking age, and countries should also ban or regulate alcohol marketing and sports sponsorships.

In Trinidad and Tobago, the legal age for the purchase of alcohol and tobacco products has been set at 18.

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