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Health—choices

Published: 
Saturday, July 21, 2018
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Without a doubt, one of the most significant factors that affect the quality of one’s life is health yet we adopt unhealthy lifestyles that are lethal weapons wielded against our bodies. These are truths that apply to communicable and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) including heart, diabetes and other life-threatening ailments.

Few aspects of life threaten the stability of a society more than an unhealthy population, for poor health, including mental disorders, is inherently linked with learning abilities, the growth and development of children and youth, crime and therefore our safety and security, productivity and consequently the economy.

There is an increasing trend in lifestyle-related diseases, and in fact, such illnesses account for the vast majority of patients presently in healthcare institutions. Undiagnosed diabetes and hypertension are time bombs.

Like every other aspect of life, technology is a driver of patient care; it is integral to efficient healthcare systems and in facilitating solutions to diagnose, treat and cure patients.

It carries high costs and those who can afford to seek out advanced healthcare options wherever they could find it do so. Of course, that always raises questions about equality of opportunity, as we so often witness when parents resort to begging the public for funds to finance the cost of medical services in the hope of saving their children’s lives.

Worldwide, the rate of growth of health cost is higher than the GDP growth rate, as it is here and it would continue to increase given the expanding middle class, the ageing population and the fact that education as an essential prevention strategy has not been exploited.

Healthcare is also increasingly data-driven to improve prevention and control strategies toward reducing the high incidence of NCDs, to predict viral epidemics and determine the factors that keep people healthy. Indeed, healthcare management is no stroll in the savannah.

It is multi-faceted, complex, often controversial and political. The Ministry of Health (MoH) must face the challenges of overhauling the fractured system, improving infrastructure; increasing the use of technology and sustaining efficient maintenance programmes. A viable national health insurance plan should be a serious consideration. The Government spends upwards of $55,000 per patient.

Maintenance is a major problem: amenities are smelly places, ceilings are vulnerable to the next downpour and equipment breakdowns seem to be frequent.

Inventory management should be high on the MoH agenda. Like other public sector institutions, the lack of accountability and robust performance management systems and practices are endemic problems.

Solutions to public healthcare should include stronger partnerships with private health care providers, which according to the MoH strategies are on its radar as well as the imperative to promote well-being through sound governance and management practices in the delivery of “safe, equitable and quality care” measured by clinical effectiveness.

In May 2017, the MoH launched a national plan for the prevention and control of NCDs with the aim of decreasing the prevalence by 25 per cent. It opened new cardiac primary care clinics in the St Joseph, Arima and Chaguanas districts and it is making an effort to address child and adult obesity in collaboration with community partners.

It has engaged medical professionals through the North Central Regional Health Authority to treat patients in their communities to reduce the pressure on centralised services. Also in 2017, it opened a new Colposcopy Centre and Clinic at the Mount Hope Women’s Hospital.

On its work plans are: the establishment of a new cancer facility in St James, increased insect vector control activities to prevent mosquito-borne diseases and a vaccination strategy aimed at high-risk groups.

Reportedly, maternal and infant mortality rates have fallen to developed countries’ levels. In short, the MoH has implemented steps to improve healthcare.

However, it should be evident that a system that was designed to cater to an 800,000 population many decades ago cannot support the increasing demands of a 1.4 million population.

In the final analysis, prevention largely rests with informed citizens acting responsibly in the interest of their well-being.

Most people are fortunate to have that choice.

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