Healthy lifestyles can prevent obesity
-- Health Minister stresses

Guyana Chronicle
March 1, 2003

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`We need to spend more money. We need to upgrade our health facilities...(but at) the same time...we have to teach our people to develop healthy lifestyles' - Dr. Leslie Ramsammy
INFECTIOUS diseases and chronic conditions, including obesity, are not inevitable if proper health habits are adopted, Health Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy stressed yesterday.

He reiterated the point while declaring open an exhibition on the prevention of obesity at the St. Joseph High School, Woolford Avenue, Georgetown.

The exhibition organised by the Food Policy Division of the Ministry of Health was held under the theme: `Reducing the Risk of Obesity - Eat Healthy and be Active' and targetted secondary school students and youths.

Ramsammy, emphasising that obesity and other conditions are preventable, implored students to adopt proper behaviour and healthy lifestyles because the problem was overwhelmingly one of poor attitudes to health.

He expressed satisfaction that the health sciences are being emphasised in schools, noting the importance of the educational process in developing consciousness and awareness of the need for healthy lifestyles.

The amount of money spent on building hospitals and acquiring modern and sophisticated equipment does not necessarily translate into the improved health of a nation, he said.

Providing statistics and facts to illustrate his contention, the minister said the U.S. has the highest expenditure on health internationally but is ranked 24th in the health index of the countries of the world, while Japan is ranked number one on the health index and ranks 73 on the spending list.

In the Caribbean, Barbados is ranked 36th in health spending but is 53 on the health index, while the corresponding figures for Jamaica are 89 and 36, respectively, he added.

"We need to spend more money. We need to upgrade our health facilities.

"We need to train more people. But if that's all we will do we will still fail.

"At the same time that we are doing that we have to teach our people to develop healthy lifestyles," the minister declared

Ramsammy informed the students that with the advent of antibiotics in 1944 the situation pertaining to infectious diseases improved dramatically and diseases like polio and tuberculosis, which were prevalent in the last century, were dramatically reduced or eliminated.

However, new infectious diseases have developed like HIV/AIDS, he noted.

He added that the current trend is that morbidity in developing countries is caused by infectious diseases, while in developed countries it results mainly from chronic illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and heart diseases.

The minister exhorted the students to not only become good citizens but to become good ambassadors of health, spreading the message of healthy lifestyles to their parents and in the community.

"The choice which we make today will live on forever. If you want to become an adult with a healthy lifestyle, it has to start now, because if you wait until you become an adult, some damage would have already been accomplished," Ramsammy exhorted.

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