FORMER health minister Dr Fuad Khan was not surprised that TT has been ranked in the top 20 unhealthiest countries in the world.
TT placed 14th on the Indigo Wellness Index, which ranks 191 countries on ten key health measures.
"People have lost their self-control. They are being conditioned by advertisements that promote constant eating," Khan said.
He added that these people "now have become obese and unhealthy." In addition to the wrong foods being promoted, Khan claimed, "Many restaurant foods are laced with additives."
He said heavy salt, sugar and msg (monosodium glutamate) "provoke food addiction" and the result in"constant eating and drinking indefinitely." He claimed that people's brain messages are skewed "due to chemical imbalances brought on by food addictives."
Former health minister Jerry Narace said public policy can be a critical intervention when dealing with non-communicable diseases (NCDs)
He recalled that one policy involved encouraging people to use stairs and not lifts. When government passed tobacco control legislation, Narace said, efforts were made to ensure there was proper labelling on products to alert consumers about potential health risks. But he was uncertain that the change to healthy lifestyles at the cultural level was happening as it should.
"I don't believe we are winning that war," he said.
At the end of the day, Narace said each person must take responsibility for their own health.
Narace said public education and awarness is important to helping people live healthy lifestyles and if prevention is not front and centre of efforts, the curative component will make little impact.
A doctor, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there was some merit to TT's placement on the index. The doctor said people in TT need to educate themselves better about NCDs and how to prevent them.
In addition to proper diet and exercise, the doctor said people should also look at their own lifestyles and habits which could set the conditions for NCDs.
TT has a score of 0.39 on the index. The country had poor scores for depression, blood pressure, and blood glucose. Canada was the healthiest country in the index and South Africa was the unhealthiest country overall.
The index draws on findings from the World Health Organisation, the World Happiness Report, and public health data.