Ministry of Health officials are appealing for the public in the Cayman Islands to cooperate in an ongoing health risk factor survey which survey takers are having difficulty completing.
The eight-week survey, which began in mid-May, has been extended to allow more time for participants, who have been randomly selected, to give their information.
Chief Officer at the Ministry of Health Jennifer Ahearn said there had been some refusals from people reluctant to take part in the survey and also the survey takers have been having some problems finding people at home when they visit selected addresses.
Households are randomly selected and then an individual member within each household is asked to take part in the survey. “You cannot substitute,” Ms Ahearn said. This means that other family members cannot volunteer to do the survey instead of a relative. Survey takers have been asking for call backs when the selected person returns home. “They have had some issues with getting call backs,” Ms Ahearn said.
There have also been concerns among the public about how the information, once gathered, will be used, she said. However, Ms Ahearn repeated assurances that all information would be treated in a confidential manner.
“It is really important that people participate. We need this information,” she said.
During the exercise, called Healthy Nation 2012, 60 survey takers are visiting 2,100 homes in all three of the Cayman Islands to determine the risks that lead people to develop diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart conditions. It is the first time a health risk factor survey has been carried out in Cayman.
The appeal to the public came during a news conference Monday morning to announce the third annual National Healthcare Conference, known as Healthcare 20/20. This year’s conference is themed Patient-centred Care: Achieving Quality Outcomes.
“Expectations for this year’s conference are high as each annual conference helps us move that much closer to our vision of optimal health and wellbeing for all in the Cayman Islands,” said Health Minister Mark Scotland.
He encouraged the medical and business communities, as well as members of the public and patients to attend the conference, free of charge, saying it will allow them the opportunity to help define health policies that will affect them and future generations.
Among the speakers at this year’s conference, which will be held on 18-20 October at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, will be Barbara Ficarra, a medical blogger and host of the radio show “Health in 30”, and Cynthia Hastings-James, the cofounder of Cookson James Loyalty, which aims to change the face of healthcare in Canada. More speakers will be announced at a later date, Mr. Scotland said.
This year’s conference will target three key areas: paediatric care, oncology and corporate wellness. The minister said working groups would be set up before the conference to address these topics and presentations based on those discussions would be made.
The two previous conferences were heavily sponsored by local and international companies and organisers, meaning the Ministry of Health hosted the events at little cost. Mr. Scotland said he hoped the same would occur this year.
Some of the preliminary data from the risk factor survey may be available in time for the conference, Ms Ahearn said. The scheduled date for the release of the data is November.
Mr. Scotland reiterated the importance of people taking part in the survey, saying: “We all know people who suffer from such lifestyle diseases as high blood pressure and diabetes; we all know that obesity affects way too many of our citizens, but equally, we all should know that these ailments are preventable.
“That is why this initiative has been such a dynamic one, moving us forward to not only improve the provision of healthcare in this country, but also to help break the cycle of the most prevalent chronic diseases that continually befall our residents.”
The survey will also play a part in the revision of the Cayman Islands’ national health policy and strategic health plan, which is being carried out this year.
“I cannot emphasise strongly enough the importance of all the industry’s stakeholders committing to travelling the same path to reach the same goal, a healthcare system that will be the standard bearer throughout the Caribbean and, indeed, the world,” Mr. Scotland said.