A health risk factor survey shows that more than one third of respondents in the Cayman Islands are obese.
The survey showed that, according to Body Mass Index classification, 36.6 per cent of those surveyed are obese and 70.6 per cent are overweight.
Health Minister Mark Scotland described that finding as “a very alarming statistic”.
People are considered to be of normal weight if their BMI is 18.5 to 24.9, overweight if their BMI is 25 to 29.9 and obese if their BMI 30 and above.
The findings are from a health risk factor study carried out last year of more than 2,000 households in the Cayman Islands.
As well as BMI, waist circumstance is also considered an indicator for further health problems, such as diabetes or heart disease. The survey showed that in Cayman, the mean waist circumference for women was 35.8 inches, which is greater than the recommended cut-off point of 34.6 inches. The mean waist circumference for men was 36.9 inches, which is slightly less than the recommended cut off point of 40 inches.
This is the first adult risk factor survey conducted in the Cayman Islands, Mr. Scotland told a press briefing Thursday.
The survey is part of an effort to gather data for the government, policy makers and health insurance providers to establish a national strategy for the prevention, control and management of noncommunicable diseases.
Mr. Scotland said the survey provides valuable information and evidence on the risk factors of chronic diseases, which support the high prevalence of these diseases among adults locally and that it explained in part the increasing spending on healthcare in the Cayman Islands.
“With these findings, our focus must be on prevention,” Mr. Scotland said. “A united approach is needed to turn the tide on these noncommunicable diseases. I urge the private sector and health insurance providers to act as an agent, as an advocate, for change and to encourage healthier lifestyles.”
About 15 per cent of the population smoke tobacco, with twice as many men as women being smokers. The survey showed 20.7 per cent of men and 9 per cent of women smoke. Of those, the majority – 67.1 per cent – smoke daily, with more women than men being daily smokers. Smokers smoked an average of 10 cigarettes per day.
The mean age for starting smoking was 20 years, although those surveyed in the older age group, 55 to 64 years, starting smoking at 24 years.
Despite the Tobacco Law and Regulations coming into force in July 2010, which bans smoking in the workplace, approximately 10.8 per cent of the population said they were exposed to smoke at the workplace on one or more days per week.
The risk factors examined in the survey, which was carried out last year, include current daily smokers, less than five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, low level of activity, weight, and raised blood pressure.
The survey shows that 42.9 per cent of respondents reported having three or more of these risk factors. Among the age group 25 to 44 years, 39.2 per cent had three or more of the risk factors, indicating that they are at risk of developing chronic noncommunicable diseases.
According to a report on the survey findings, the results indicate “an urgent need to target specific groups in the population group with health education and health promotion for the prevention and control” of noncommunicable diseases”.
Consumption of alcohol was higher among men than women, with men ages 25 to 34, drinking more than their female counterparts.
The survey indicated that 25.7 per cent of men and 14 per cent of women drank episodically, with men stating they had five or more on any day in the past 30 days and women having four or more drinks on one day in the previous month.
Men and women consume fruit and vegetable on average of 4.7 and 5.1 days per week, respectively; however, the servings were well below the recommended levels of five portions of fruit and vegetables per day.
The majority of the respondents – 83.7 per cent ate less than five servings of fruit and/or vegetables on average per day. The vast majority (84.9 per cent) of respondents used vegetable oil for meal preparation.
The survey found that slightly less than half – 47.9 per cent – of respondents were considered to have high levels of physical activity, but men were more likely to be physically active than women, with 61.6 per cent of men and 33.7 per cent of women involved in high levels of physical activity.
The mean blood pressure among the population including those currently on medication for raised blood pressure was 124.8/76.1 mmHg. A similar proportion of both men (27.1 per cent) and women (24.2 per cent) were among those with raised blood pressure of greater or equal to 140/90 mmHg, who are currently on medication.
Among both sexes, 15.8 per cent of the population had raised blood pressure 140/90mmHg or more, who were not currently on medication.
Recommendations for the Ministry of Health
Identify and earmark funds for ongoing noncommunicable disease strategy implementation and monitoring.
Introduce lower tariffs on the importation of fruit and vegetable.
Increase the level and duration of physical activity in all schools at an early age.
Improve the approach to primary health care by improving access to healthcare through full participation of each person at an affordable cost.
Disseminate the findings of the survey to the health insurance providers, Chamber of Commerce and other non-health government sectors.
The Cayman Islands Noncommunicable Disease STEPS Risk Factor Survey, dubbed the “Healthy Nation Survey” was the first of its kind conducted in the adult population aged between 25 and 64 years.
Households in 227 so-called enumeration areas were selected for the survey. The number of households selected was proportionate to the district size or number of households in each district. One eligible individual in each of the chosen households was interviewed. A total of 2,105 households were selected over the six districts of the three islands.