Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar
During the 66th Session of the United Nations General Assembly
United Nations Headquarters
September 19, 2011
I have a question for you today, I would like to ask how many of you sitting here, suffer from any of these non communicable diseases or any of your close family members
Please raise your hand.
This is what underscores the importance of this very important side event, these important discussions that we are having here today. At this gathering of world leaders and Inter governmental Organisations along with representatives of Civil Society we underscore the importance of formulating a Global strategy to address the most urgent challenges posed by NCD’s.
The impact of NCDs on our populations can no longer be viewed solely as a health crisis. The Government of Trinidad and Tobago recognizes this challenge and has therefore put in place measures to prevent and treat persons affected by these NCDs.
We have experienced great successes and strides in public health. We have been able to reduce infant mortality, eradicate polio, and virtually eliminate childhood diseases like measles, and diphtheria as major causes of infant morbidity and mortality through our robust primary care programmes.
Nevertheless, over the past decade, heart disease has remained the number 1 cause of death, accounting for 25%. Diabetes has remained fairly constant accounting for just under 14% of deaths. Cancers have increased slightly from 12.7% to 13.8%. In the case of strokes, however, there has been a 1% decline from 10% to 9%.
A significant portion of our Gross Domestic Product is being utilised to provide care for persons with NCDs. Added to this economic cost is the social burden placed on families and communities who must cope with numerous problems caused by these diseases. These include: disabilities, inability to work, provision of care for the ill and the vulnerable, as well as social risk factors linked to culture, education, environment, urbanisation, and employment, all of which increase the susceptibility to developing NCDs.
Trinidad and Tobago has been at the forefront, in advocating for national, regional and international action to focus on NCDs as a developmental issue, of global concern. We took the political initiative in 2009, and proposed to this august body that a High-Level Meeting be convened to address this matter. Subsequently, our delegation at the UN participated actively with delegations representing CARICOM and other Member States, in the deliberations which laid the groundwork for this meeting. We, however, view our efforts at the multilateral level as only complementary to what we are obligated to do domestically.
At the national level, we have devised a number of programmes in the fight against NCDs. Only last Friday, we appointed new members to the Partners Forum Working Committee for Action on Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases. The goal of this committee is to act as both a catalyst and a mechanism for multi-sectoral action to promote health and reduce the burden of chronic diseases.
We have also formulated schemes to ensure that all segments of the population, especially the most vulnerable, are provided with medication used in managing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, hypertension and asthma. This is provided at no cost to the population through the Chronic Disease Assistance Programme (“CDAP”).
As a State Party to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (“FCTC”), we have implemented legislation which, among other things, bans smoking in enclosed public spaces; forbids advertising, promoting and sponsoring of tobacco products, and prohibits the sale of tobacco products to minors.
I close as I started; I say what must we do? We are serious about this and why we are here and that is why an event is taking place what can we do?
Trinidad and Tobago recognizes that the majority of NCD risks do not have a medical origin and therefore require a non-medical solution. Consequently, there must be a redefinition of the problem. We need to change the dialogue and focus on the social determinants of health, in order to win the war against NCDs. For these reasons, we submit that Member States should strengthen systems and services for early detection, treatment and rehabilitation. Emphasis must also be placed on:
Research on the man-made causes of NCDs;
Reduction of the risk factors; and
A shift towards protecting the future of our children.
Trinidad and Tobago strongly endorses the development of a global strategy for the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases .This can be achieved if the UN partners with Member States to reduce the incidence and prevalence of NCDs among our populations. This requires the harnessing of financial and other resources not readily available to many developing countries. In order to achieve these objectives, I urge the General Assembly to:
- Support the establishment of global targets for NCD prevention and control with a possible target of reducing NCDs by 25% by 2025;
- Re-define NCDs in terms of the conditions that drive the risk factors for their development; and
- Commission a Scientific Technical Working Group to develop a research agenda for NCDs and establish the framework within which the global community can respond and measure the efficacy of the response at all levels. In this regard, the Secretary General may consider the appointment of a Special Envoy on NCDs.
Finally, Mr. President
The Government of Trinidad and Tobago remains committed to working with the UN, other intergovernmental organizations, members of civil society and other partners to implement any agreed global strategy aimed at preventing and controlling the incidence of NCDs.
I thank you.
Communications and Media Relations Unit
Office of the Prime Minister