Health official expresses concern about cancer deaths among youth Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

As the globe faces a health emergency sparked by non-communicable diseases (NCDs), there is a concern that more young Jamaicans are dying from such diseases, including cancer.

This is while the Caribbean has the highest premature mortality for NCDs, which means more persons are dying younger from such illnesses.

The overall statements were made by Director of non-communicable diseases and injuries prevention at the Health and Wellness Ministry, Dr Tamu Davidson. She was speaking at Thursday’s public forum of the Medical Association of Jamaica (MAJ) 2024 symposium, which was held under the theme ‘Resilience in Healthcare: A Global Imperative’.

Davidson said the theme was chosen because “we are facing a global emergency, and that’s of non-communicable diseases.

“There’s no country that’s not impacted, and, in fact, this is a problem that we’ve been facing over a number of years,” she pointed out.

While there is an aging population, Davidson said there is a high prevalence of the environmental risk factors that are driving NCDs.

“So, when we look at the Caribbean situation, we have the highest premature mortality; people are dying young from these conditions,” she explained.

In relation to cancer, she said it was “the highest premature mortality” among NCDs.

“What does that mean? So if you’re 30 years old, your risk of dying, for example, in Jamaica, is about 8.6 per cent from cancer,” Davidson shared.

Continuing, she said: “In fact, when you look at the region and the Americas, the latest report that’s out for PAHO (Pan-American Health Organisation), Jamaica is in the top three (for premature mortality).”

She said there are several environmental factors that account for premature cancer mortality, including when persons delay in making decisions to embark on cancer screening.

“So if you look at the common cancers.., which are cervical cancer, prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, and breast cancer, these are just some of the risk factors… that we’re looking at which is driving some of these statistics: the increasing tobacco use, alcohol use…, and obesity,” said Davidson.

Obesity, according to the medical doctor, is also a critical risk factor within the context of the Caribbean, along with factors which are not behaviour-related, such as genetics and race.

Davidson said through screening and early detection of these common cancers, survival rates can be improved.

Meanwhile, she said the top five causes of deaths in Jamaica for the past 50 years are around NCDs.

“One of the things the Ministry of Health has been doing is really improving the (health) infrastructure, improving our approach, (and) the primary healthcare reform, which is the bedrock where we can do the healthcare promotion in that setting and also get people in to do screening and (receive) care early,” Davidson stated.

Also, the ministry is said to be taking a “patient-centric” and a holistic approach to health.

“So when you come in and interface with the health setting, we’re looking at your age, sex, and tailoring (health) services (around that),” Davidson informed.

Further, she said the ministry is building out its secondary-care model and transforming the heath sector towards better tackling NCDs.