World Diabetes Day 2019 Message from the Honourable Terrence Deyalsingh, Minister of Health

The Ministry of Health joins the rest of the world in commemoration of World Diabetes Day (WDD) today with the theme, “Family and Diabetes." This year’s focus is on increasing public understanding of the impact that diabetes has on the family and the support network of those affected with the disease. The role of the family is critical in the prevention, treatment and management of this disease.  

The specialised support needed for a diabetic family member can vary greatly. It may range from simple changes in the eating habits of the entire household, to significant physical adjustments of the home to facilitate wheelchair access for a family member who has had a leg amputated due to diabetic complications. The implications may be difficult for low-income families, especially in instances where the diabetic person was the sole income earner.

The good news is that the support network can have a considerably beneficial effect on the health status of someone with diabetes.  While self-management of the disease is important, family members and other loved ones play a crucial supportive role.

Globally, diabetes and other instances of Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) are on the rise. Here in Trinidad and Tobago, NCDs account for over 60% of deaths annually. Interestingly, it was discovered that 40% of these deaths were preventable, as they all shared the same modifiable behavioural risk factors. These contributing factors include tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diets and physical inactivity.

Proactive steps have already been taken to address this epidemic. In April 2017, the prohibition of the sale of sugar sweetened, non-alcoholic beverages with added sugars was implemented in all government and government assisted schools. As a result of this initiative, there has been a more than 25% reduction in the consumption of sugar sweetened beverages in Primary and Secondary Schools in Trinidad[1].

The TT Moves behaviour change campaign was launched Trinidad and Tobago to reduce the prevalence of NCDs among members of our population. This campaign uses a whole of society approach to promote healthier lifestyles and behaviour changes, through positive reinforcement of the benefits to be gained. TT Moves has facilitated partnerships between the Ministry of Health and civil society (including the Diabetes Association of Trinidad and Tobago), as well as the public and private sectors, in the fight against NCDs.

However, change will only come as a result of every individual’s commitment to doing better. Families can work together to replace deeply embedded unhealthy cultural beliefs and practices with health promoting behaviour. An invitation is extended to every individual, family and community to Drink Water, Eat Fruits and Vegetables, and Get Moving. Everyone should take an active role and make the necessary lifestyle changes to eliminate the dangers of diabetes.

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