BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, July 7, 2017 (Press Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister) – Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, has told his CARICOM colleagues that chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) continue to be an economic burden for most Caribbean countries.

Prime Minister Harris, who was at the time addressing the first plenary session of the Thirty-Eighth Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) on Wednesday in Grenada, said NCDs represent a significant contributor to mortality/morbidity within our region.

Citing the findings of a 2016 study of the Economic Dimensions of NCDs in Trinidad and Tobago, the St. Kitts and Nevis prime minister said that an estimated five percent of that country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is being lost by the impact of preventable diabetes, hypertension and cancer.

Of that five percent, Dr. Harris disclosed that “50 percent of the loss in GDP is a result of direct medical care costs and the other 50 percent relates to a loss in productivity.”

“These are significant costs that are unsustainable. Importantly, they are preventable impediments to growth,” the honourable prime minister stated, while added that similar estimates were reported for Jamaica and Barbados.

Prime Minister Harris, CARICOM’S lead spokesman on health matters, issued a plea to his fellow Heads of Government to refocus their efforts to urgently address NCDs and four main risk factors associated with NCDs, namely: unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, tobacco use and harmful use of alcohol.

Dr. Harris urged his CARICOM colleagues to put the necessary legislative frameworks in place that will “ban smoking in public places as a way to reduce the exposure of the people of the Caribbean to tobacco smoke”.

This action, according to Prime Minister Harris, is consistent with CARICOM’s obligation under the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, of which thirteen member states have already ratified.

The prime minister’s remarks came as CARICOM observed the 10th anniversary of the Port-of-Spain Declaration on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), which is aimed at uniting the region to stop the epidemic of NCDs.