Noncommunicable diseases focus of forum

Mental health issues will be among a number of chronic noncommunicable diseases affecting the Cayman Islands to be addressed at the fifth national healthcare conference, Health Minister Osbourne Bodden announced Thursday. 

“We aim to have this conference be informative and educational, not only for the medical community, but for the general public as well,” Mr. Bodden said at a press conference.  

“Winning the war against chronic noncommunicable diseases,” is the theme of this year’s conference, focusing on such topics as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, mental health, respiratory disease, and obesity. 

Mr. Bodden said he encourages residents to “take charge of their lives and live a healthy lifestyle,” as chronic noncommunicable diseases are often preventable. 

Citing the 2012 Healthy Nation Survey, Mr. Bodden said it is clear that “many Caymanians are leading unhealthy lifestyles.” 

“We smoke, we are overweight, and sometimes even obese, and we are not getting our five-a-day recommended amount of fruit and vegetables,” he said.  

The minister added that he is even more concerned about childhood obesity, with the latest statistics showing 22 percent of schoolchildren are obese. 

“Among schoolchildren, there are indicators of high levels of obesity. Such risk factors within the school population are a predictor for the future development of chronic noncommunicable diseases in the Cayman Islands,” he said. 

Last year’s health conference drew more than 600 delegates. 

A new section will be added to this year’s conference where nonprofit organizations can showcase their services and programs.  

“These organizations are pivotal to our community, so we are looking forward to having a space where they can be highlighted. We are excited to have Cayman HospiceCare on board and look forward to many others’ participation,” said Mr. Bodden. 

Among the speakers will be Dr. James Hospedales, executive director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency. He will open the conference with a talk on the global and Caribbean situational analysis of chronic noncommunicable diseases. 

The rest of the speaker lineup will be announced in the coming months, according to health officials. 

The conference is free and open to anyone interested in learning about their health. It will be held at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman on Nov. 20 to 22. Health officials are urging sponsors to sign up online so that the ministry can offer the conference free of charge to delegates. 

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Health officials Jennifer Ahearn, Osbourne Bodden and Lizzette Yearwood announced the upcoming health conference at the Government Administration Building. – PHOTO: SAMANTHA BONHAM

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