PUBLIC HEALTH DAY MESSAGE OF EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF CARPHA, DR. C. JAMES HOSPEDALES – “ADD LIFE TO YOUR LIFE” ON CARIBBEAN PUBLIC HEALTH DAY Good day. As Executive Director of the newest international public health agency of the 21st century – CARPHA - the importance of public health is succinctly summed up in the words of our slogan – Preventing disease, promoting and protecting health. Indeed, the Caribbean Public Health Agency, CARPHA, is committed to promoting a healthier, more productive Caribbean population in cleaner and greener environments. The work of CARPHA advances the public health of the Region in several ways, including monitoring health and disease spread and responding to emergencies, laboratory services, nutrition and food security, health research, environmental health and pharmaceutical quality. However, within recent times, the scourge of non-communicable diseases, also known as NCDs, such as obesity, stroke, cancers, heart disease and diabetes, along with risks such as tobacco use and harmful use of alcohol, and poor diet and physical inactivity, has presented a clear and present danger to our health and economies, right here in the Region. The sobering reality is, that NCDs are now the leading cause of premature deaths, accounting for nearly half the deaths of persons under 70 years, and two out of three deaths overall in the Caribbean. In addition, this Region has one of the highest rates of obesity in children and adults in the world. Recent studies throughout the Caribbean show over 25 per cent of adolescents as being overweight or obese. This is mainly due to poor diets and lack of physical activity, driven by profound changes in the way we live and play, with massive marketing of foods high in sugar, fats and salt; as well as several hours per day spent watching TV and playing video games. In fact, the vast majority of the people do not get five servings of fruit and vegetables a day, which protect against high blood pressure, heart disease and cancer. Despite the alarming nature of all this evidence, there is also a positive side to NCDs: most of them are caused by modifiable risk factors. In other words, if we control the risk factors leading to NCDs, we can prevent some 80 per cent of all heart attacks, strokes and Type II diabetes, as well as 40 per cent of cancers. This will greatly benefit the economy also. The modifiable risk factors are mostly known to all of us. They include tobacco use, an unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, and harmful use of alcohol. Other intermediate risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar and obesity. To address this health scourge and to promote healthy living, CARPHA declares, today, July 2nd, Caribbean Public Health Day. Please allow me to take the opportunity today, to publicly thank our public health nurses, environmental health officers, dieticians and nutritionists, health educators and other public health professionals who work tirelessly in the communities educating and assisting persons to adopt a healthy lifestyle, so that they can successfully reduce their risk of developing chronic diseases. On this day, Caribbean Public Health Day, we urge you to Add Life to Your Life and reverse the NCD trend. Start today, by making at least one lifestyle change. Add life by: Walking 30 minutes a day; it can halve your risk of heart attack Reduce your salt intake to reduce your risk of hypertension Eat five servings of fruit and vegetables each day to reduce your risk of hypertension, heart disease and cancer Don’t smoke to reduce your risk of cancer and wrinkles and save money Reduce your alcohol consumption If you have high blood pressure or diabetes, stay on your medications to avoid complications like heart attacks, stroke, and kidney failure Recognizing that "The Health of the Region is the Wealth of the Region"' CARPHA encourages you to join with us in demonstrating your firm commitment to improving the quality of your own life and that of our families, so we move towards more healthy people in healthy spaces, and reduce the preventable health costs to families, businesses and governments. I thank you.