Ivy George, the Coordinator for Health Promotion Services and Focal Point for Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) announced that plans are in the pipeline to target young persons to prevent an increase in childhood diabetes in the Territory.
The initiatives geared at curbing diabetes among children was mentioned by Ms. George during her announcement of this year’s Caribbean Wellness Day activities during a television interview.
In stressing the importance of keeping the Territory’s youth diabetes-free Ms. George explained that the Wellness Day activities are specifically targeting youths ages 15 to 29. She also mentioned that the initiative will be held under the theme: “Securing our future generation through eating healthy and improving physical activity, not smoking and management of alcohol use.”
Ms. George explained that the decision was made for diabetes prevention among youths because in dealing with adult diabetics it was noted that the disease resulted from early factors. “What we have observed is that although we see the peak for chronic disease in the adult population we know that the onset starts before that,” she explained.
“What we are also seeing now is that you are finding that some students, even at high school, who you would find with diabetes, not juvenile diabetes but type two diabetes. We are also seeing an increase also in persons with high blood pressure,” Ms. George added.
The Coordinator for Health Promotion Services said that the aim is for youths to help to educate each other about the risks and prevention of chronic non-communicable diseases. “We want to train a group of young persons at the BVI High School so that they can have a health program targeting their peers on the school radio station.”
She added: “We also would like to have several forums with young people to really find out what are their challenges and what are the things that they are concerned about in reference to NCDs and the risk factors.”
The matter of childhood diabetes has been a matter of concern for the Minister of Health and Social Development, Hon. Ronnie Skelton. In 2015 the Minister lamented the fact that diabetes is now prevalent among young people, even children, because so many are overweight or obese.
While he was speaking at the 2015 observation of November as Diabetes Awareness Month, the Minister stated that research conducted in the Virgin Islands revealed that 37 percent of students aged 13 to 15 years, were overweight or obese.
Therefore, Hon. Skelton stressed that there was a need for youth in the Territory to adopt healthier lifestyles: “Getting our youth to adopt a healthy lifestyle sets the stage for them to continue maintaining healthier habits into adulthood and old age,” Hon. Skelton said.
“Diabetes is also one of the main contributing factors to kidney failure. A hemodialysis programme was started in 2000 with six stations and 7 dialysis patients. The programme now has eleven stations and accommodates 45 patients ranging in age from 24 to 80; at an annual cost of some $4 million,” he added.
The Ministry is very concerned about the obesity statistics among young members of the society and as recent as last month continued efforts to stem the issue