by Eulana Weekes
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): Currently, in St. Kitts and Nevis, there is a rise in premature illnesses, disability and death before age 70, indicative of everyday choices that people make, be it one’s living environment, the company one keeps or what he/she consumes.
Dr Patrick Martin, in a Media statement on July 25, 2023, disclosed some indicators of unhealthy lifestyles amongst the populace.
He said there is a prevalence of obesity in adults standing at 66% and in children, 30%. Cancer was determined to be the leading cause of death. The leading cause of death in males is homicide. One in 1,000 adults have End Stage Renal Failure and are undergoing dialysis treatment. One in 1,000 individuals are living with Cancer and are receiving chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
In addition, increased dependency on financial benefits shows a household poverty rate of 20- 25 %, an increase from 13 % in 2017.
To improve population health, it is necessary to influence the social factors that affect health outcomes by implementing population-wide policies and interventions.
According to Martin, in St. Kitts and Nevis, the public policy and programming agenda focuses on five overarching priorities:
- Clear Air – Protecting health from toxic smoke and fumes from faulty vehicles
- 24/7 Clean Water Security – Supplementing rainfed stream with desalination while increasing storage
- Healthy Food Security – In tandem with CARICOM partners, “Eat what we grow and grow what we eat.”
- Energy Security – Tapping geothermal sources; maximising solar and wind.
- Health Security – Universal access to high-quality services and financial risk protection.
Each priority has specific goals and objectives and considers the need to address several health disparities that continue to linger.
Universal Health is a concept that several citizens and residents have been longing to see established. Universal Health will give all residents assured access to health care at an affordable cost, which includes health promotion, treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care, amongst other things. Universal Health will also allow for the rollout of National Health Insurance, which would provide coverage for the full spectrum of services under the health sector, Martin informed.
The SKN Government currently finances the public health sector with 4% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) “whereas, from research, a minimum 6% GDP is needed,” Martin said.
The need for health system improvements also forms part of the day-to-day public discourse. As a result, the Government, through the Ministry of Health, seeks to strengthen several areas, including Duty of Care, by safeguarding the population’s health Under the Public Health Act, Quality of Service delivery by meeting and exceeding international health standards and pursuing international accreditation.
As it relates to human resources for health, emphasis is being placed on developing a more competent and motivated workforce through ongoing recruitment, training and promotion.
The Health Advisor added that there are ongoing improvements in procurement and inventory procedures, whilst Health Informatics has also been prioritised, aimed at digitising the health system through the development of essential databases, networking and the use of a robust electronic medical record platform.
Dr Martin also hinted at the possibility of transitioning health administration under the command of a government-owned statutory authority. He said care recipients and care providers deserve facilities of the highest design, construction, and functionality standards, which will provide more space for professional personnel management, procurement, maintenance, and finances.
By the end of 2025, the following capital works should be completed or in advanced stage of completion said Martin; “new health centres in St. Peter’s and Central Basseterre, refurbishment of the Cardin Home, Mary Charles, and Pogson Medical Center and a new climate-resilient, water and energy-sufficient, technology-enabled, safe, secure, easy to maintain JNF Hospital with modern amenities.”