Bahamians need to make healthier choices, the country’s total health expenditure is ranked among the top five in the Caribbean and Latin America, said Minister of Health Dr. the Hon. Duane Sands, during the official opening of World Health Month at the Rand Memorial Hospital on Thursday, April 12. Held under the theme, “Universal Health Coverage: Everyone, Everywhere”, the Minister opened his address with a quote from Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nationals, which said ‘It is my aspiration that health finally will be seen not as a blessing to be wished for, but as a human right to be fought for.’ As a part of the observance said the Minister, the World Health Organization (WHO) is challenging leaders, policy makers, and national health systems to take steps towards Universal Health Coverage.
“The Bahamas, like many other nations in our region, has undertaken the immense challenge that is the implementation of a programme of National Health Insurance. The need for universal coverage is clear, our country’s total health expenditure ranks among the top five in Latin America and the Caribbean. As I recently advised Parliament, with the current trends in Non-Communicable Diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, cancers, in addition to the impact of violence and infectious diseases are already struggling economy will be crippled by our health challenges and costs.
“I support the efforts of the NHI Authority as we make progress toward a universal coverage solution that works in our Bahamian context, and meets the international standard that enables every citizen and resident to access the services that address the most important causes of disease and death, and ensures the quality of those services. However, the reform of our NHI programme while important is not the panacea for all The Bahamas’ healthcare ills. A solution to the problem, the Minister continued, is a complex one. Continuous reform in the health system is necessary to improve “health and wellness for Bahamians at risk of developing preventable health conditions as well as improvement in our delivery of care and management of ill and injured.”
There are too many Bahamians, continued Minister Sands, who consume too much salt, sugar and too little healthy and nutritious options. “Far too many Bahamians live sedentary lives, inviting the many complications that result from a lack of sufficient physical activity. Ultimately, far too many Bahamians, despite decades of healthy lifestyle campaigns undertaken by the public health sector, the private sector, civil society, and NGOs lack the information and tools to make changes in their lives that could improve their health and prevent disease and injury. There is little doubt that creative thinking and innovative approaches are needed to empower our people to take control of their health, but personal responsibility for one’s own health and dedication to the health of those entrusted to our care, like our children and elderly must also play a part.”Dr. Sands noted that discussions are being held with the public and private sectors, along with talks with the public on changes that can be made to lifestyles, culture and economic outlook that will empower Bahamians to have better health results.
World Health Day is observed April 7 annually and is an initiative that came out of the first World Health Assembly in 1948.