THE EDITOR: While I admit that Dr Fuad Khan’s response to Candice Santana’s interview lacked grace and tact, I agree wholeheartedly with the message he was trying to convey.
Obesity is the gateway to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, hypertension, stroke, heart disease, some cancers and even asthma and Alzheimer’s. NCDs are responsible for the majority (80 per cent) of adult deaths in TT and the cost to the country is simply mind-blowing.
It is estimated that each year a dialysis patient costs the country $130,000, a lung cancer patient $500,000 while diabetic, hypertensive and cancer patients collectively cost the country a whopping $8.7 billion.
The latter figure represents not only the cost of providing healthcare (drugs, hospital beds, physicians, nurses etc), but also the loss of productivity (through death or illness) related to these diseases.
Khan’s rant was that of a frustrated former minister of health who saw, first-hand, the devastating effects of obesity on the nation’s health, not to mention its coffers. As the minister he implemented many initiatives to combat the obesity problem.
Sadly, these initiatives had minimal success because many Trinis are simply not willing to make the necessary adjustments for the sake of their health.
I understand Khan’s frustration. In 2009, I returned to Trinidad after an 11-year absence and was gobsmacked when I observed the increase in girth of the people who were walking around. I suspected the country had a serious health problem. Statistics corroborated my observations.
In 2017, I decided to do my part by producing a health calendar urging Trinis to start taking better care of their health before it’s too late. Like Khan, I too was disappointed with the lack of impact my efforts had, despite radio and newspaper interviews.
As pointed out in the calendar, Trinis are fearful of being killed by a knife-wielding, gun-toting criminal when, ironically, they are literally committing suicide with their knives, forks, spoons and teeth. If your waist measurement is more than half your height, then you are at risk.
Those who profess to be fat and beautiful must also claim responsibility for the NCDs when they come a-knocking. It would be unfair to then blame the government of the day when CDAP medicines aren’t available, or a hospital bed cannot be accessed.
It is said that “beauty is not measured in pounds.” That may indeed be so, but most certainly health is.
MARIE CROSS, Tunapuna