Dominica government moves to enact tobacco policies

In a recent article in Dominica News Online, Dominica’s Health Minister promised to “draft legislation to raise taxes on tobacco products to 75 percent of the purchase price, ban the sale of tobacco products to minors, ensure proper labeling of content of the harmful nature of the product and ban on the advertising of tobacco products.” This is very much in line with regulations from the World Health Organization. Additionally, this news follows Australia’s recent decision to ban tobacco company logos on cigarette packages. Instead, the boxes will show graphic labels of the effects of tobacco.

I applaud the Health Minister for taking steps such as these towards ensuring a healthier nation. But believe there are several other areas that need attention as well, including alcohol and fast-food advertising. I am constantly bombarded by advertising for alcoholic products and fast-food options whenever I listen to Dominica radio. These ads air prominently at times when children are likely to be home. No amount of “drink responsibly” counters the constant stream of engaging music and on-air mentions that hosts devote to alcohol advertising.

It is difficult for health communicators to change individual behavior when the environment is filled with so much counter-advertising. It is great to see the government consider factors beyond individual-level behavior and see the importance of public policy in effectuating change.


A saw this picture a few weeks ago on Dominica News Online, and it immediately brought back memories of going to Saturday markets with my grandma. It also reminded me of Dominica’s annual Market Day with a Difference, which occurs around Independence celebrations.

We as a region have amazing bounties, and we really need to get back to basics when it comes to what and how we eat. In the past 10 to 15 years, there has been a quiet revolution across the region with the introduction of more packaged goods than ever before. Look at the amazing colors. How could someone ever replicate this in a lab? The mangoes, the carrots, the cocoys all look so yummy.

You don’t realize how much these images speak to you until you are far away from home and ‘eat local’  and ‘but local’ is the marketing edge. There are so many studies being done on getting people in developed countries to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, and in figuring out which communication method best works. Yet, we have the best social marketing campaign right in front of us, but all we want to do is stand in a long line for deep fried foods.

Pictures like these are sometimes the best promotional strategies to remind us that we have what so many people across the world lack: the availability of fresh produce. And, that these are one of the best options for preventing the rise of many NCDs that affect us as a people.

Source: Dominica News Online

Highlights of health news from around the region

PANCAP urged to do more to fight disease in region

(Jamaican Observer) — GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) — The Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP), which ended a two-day meeting here on Wednesday, has been urged to vigorously promote the cause of elimination of HIV as a public health threat in the Caribbean.

Guyana’s Health Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy, who is also the chair of the PANCAP Executive Board said it was necessary to work towards a trajectory of long, healthy and productive lives for Caribbean citizens.

PANCAP, established in 2001, is the regional mechanism responsible for coordinating the Caribbean’s response to the HIV and AIDS epidemic.

Jamaicans making it difficult for gays to stay with one partner?

(Jamaica Observer) — ONE of the world’s leading bioethics publications, Developing World Bioethics Journal, says Jamaicans are making it difficult for men who have sex with men (MSM) to be monogamous. The publication also suggested that Health Minister Rudyard Spencer is unhappy with the fact that his government “continues to support legislation that contributes significantly to the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS among MSM”.

Sport for Health launched in Grenada

(Caribbean News Now) — ST GEORGE’S, Grenada—Principals and sporting ambassadors from each of Grenada’s 22 secondary schools attended the launch of the Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation’s (WINDREF) Sport for Health Program. 

A collaborative program between WINDREF, St George’s University, the Ministries of Sport and Health, and the Grenada National Olympic Committee, the goal is to help reduce the public health problem of chronic disease by increasing awareness and educating the public about delaying or preventing the onset of chronic disease by leading a healthier lifestyle.

Grenada gets funds for poverty reduction

(The Guardian, Trinidad) — ST GEORGE’S—The United Nations’ rural development agency is to co-finance a US$7.5-million project in Grenada designed to alleviate poverty in the Caribbean country, benefiting an estimated 12,000 members of poor communities on the main island and the isle of Carriacou. The UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) will provide US$3 million in loan to the six-year Market Access and Rural Enterprise Development Programme to create jobs, improve market access and support rural micro-enterprise projects in 50 communities, according to an agreement signed in Rome between the Fund and Grenada’s government.

Ministry of Health hold consultation on strengthening the health system

(Dominica News Online) — The Ministry of Health convened the first in a series of consultations on “Strengthening the Health Systems and Engaging the Private Sector” on Thursday March 31, 2011, at the Garraway Hotel.

Stakeholders from both the Private and Health Sectors participated in the half day consultation to dialogue on priorities for technical assistance in health system strengthening and private sector engagement. They were to provide a rationale for improving the sustainability of HIV/AIDS programming and the health sector, and also to develop a framework for future collaboration between the health and private sectors

Commentary: Poor indoor air quality a potentially explosive health crisis in the Caribbean

(Caribbean News Now) — On the outside the sunny Caribbean is known for its hot balmy weather mediated by cool island breeze, creating a literal tropical paradise. On the inside lurks the real culprit—high humidity and temperatures and the ever present mildew.

Because our building designs, laws, regulations and building codes have not taken into consideration the combination of outdoor and indoor air quality, workers and employers are now forced into an unnecessary standoff. Consequently, the Caribbean is on the verge of a worsening trend of sick building syndrome (SBS) as workers in several islands threaten employers with labour action unless they take serious stock of the poor quality of indoor air in their workplaces.

Dominica has lowest obesity rates but high mortality from hypertension and diabetes

One of the top news stories out of Dominica in the past week is that the island has the lowest obesity rates in the region. The report was written after a (epidemiological) survey from several islands, including St. Kitts, Barbados and the British Virgin Islands. Despite not having the highest rates, 9 percent of males and 33 percent of females on Dominica are obese, according to epidemiologist Dr. Paul Ricketts.

Today, Dr. Ricketts revealed that diabetes and hypertension are among the top ten leading causes of death among Dominicans.

“This is very significant for us and if we look at it by gender, you can see that again that diabetes and hypertension are in the top five causes of death whether you are a male or female, perhaps more so significant for females. If we look at the last five years that we have data for, when we aggregate this, you will see that diabetes, in fact, is a major player in terms of the underlined cause of death coming in at number two as well as hypertension. They’re both in the top five causes of death in our country.”

In light of today’s news, one should revisit the discussion on obesity rates, after all, obesity (and being overweight) is one of many risk factors for diabetes and hypertension. Therefore, having the lowest obesity rates was something to boast about only if other factors were/are ignored.

Yes, Dominicans like others in the western world (developed and developing) are getting fatter. This is something even Dr. Ricketts admitted. In light of these public health issues, the Ministry of Health developed a strategic action plan to address these and other public health issues.

I have done other posts of encouraging active living, reducing salt intake, and general CNCDs.

The full article on obesity can be seen here and on diabetes and hypertension here.

The image above can be found at where the blogger discusses St. Vincent and the Grenadine’s obesity weight.

Dominica should use Waitukubuli Nature Trail to promote active lifestyle

With the completion Dominica’s Waitukubuli Nature Trail near, this presents a great opportunity for the island to promote an active lifestyle to its citizens and to others around the Caribbean. While projects such as these are often use to promote tourism, we should never forget that with the rising costs associated with non-communicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heat disease and stroke, we also have a mandate to promote healthy behaviors and healthy lifestyles.

So, alongside the marketing campaigns across countries such as the United States and Europe to attract those interested in super hikes, I would like to see the government also support a local health promotion and/or social marketing to educate citizens on the benefits of such a trail to their everyday lives.

In the past few weeks, two sets of teams – a Welch couple and a group of Dominicans – have completed the 14-segment trail. Their stories are reported here and here, respectively.