Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs) or chronic diseases are a group of conditions that are not passed from person to person and are mainly of a long duration and progress slowly. NCDs include cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancers, chronic lower respiratory diseases, sickle cell disease, mental illness, injuries among other NCDs. They are mainly a result of a combination of genetic, environmental, behavioural and metabolic risk factors, such as, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, harmful use of alcohol, air pollution, stress and overweight/obesity. So, the way we live, work and play are contributing to this public health problem.

In the Caribbean Region, NCDs are the leading cause of death and disability, 76.8% of the total deaths (non-latin Caribbean excluding Haiti) were due to NCDs in 2016. Cardiovascular disease 30.8%, cancer 17.2% and diabetes 10.8% are the leading causes of death due to NCDs. Many of these persons die before the age of 70 years old in their prime of their lives and the top four countries with the highest premature mortality in the Americas are Caribbean Member States (Guyana 57.9%, Haiti 52.5%, Belize 47.5%, Suriname 47.3%). 1

In, September 2007, the CARICOM Heads of Government in recognition of the threat to health and socio-economic development posed by the burden of these diseases committed to the Port of Spain Declaration: “Uniting to stop the Epidemic of NCDs”. This was the first ever summit and Regional declaration on NCDs worldwide, which subsequently created the catalyst for global action resulting in the United Nations Political Declaration and High-Level meeting on NCDs 2011 and follow-up meetings and commitments 2014, and 2018. In 2015, targets for NCD and their risk factors was included in the Sustainable Development Goals.

Why It Matters

NCDs not only has health consequences but also a social and economic impact on individuals, communities and the society. However, NCDs is mostly preventable and their exist cost-effective, evidence-based interventions (WHO best and good buys create link to document) that can prevent most of the death and disability associated with these diseases. A recent study in Jamaica found a minimum 2.10 JMD return for every dollar invested in implementing a package of interventions to treat diabetes, and cardiovascular disease; and alcohol and tobacco control, over the period 2017 to 2032. These interventions would also grow the GDP by an extra 0.11 percentage points by year five of the intervention.2

The Chronic Diseases and Injury Department provides leadership, strategic direction, coordinates and implements technical cooperation activities directed towards the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases in CARPHA member states. Global, Regional, and sub-regional commitments provide the framework for action, such as, the 2007 Port of Spain Declaration on NCDs, Caribbean Cooperation in Health Phase IV (CCH IV), United Nations Political Declarations on NCDs and Sustainable Development Goals.

  1. Noncommunicable Disease Mortality and Risk Factor Prevalence in the Americas PAHO/NMH/19-014. Retrieved from website: http://iris.paho.org/xmlui/handle/123456789/51696
  2. The Case for Investment in Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases in Jamaica: Evaluating the return on investment of selected tobacco, alcohol, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease interventions. Washington, D.C.: UNIAFT, UNDP, and PAHO; 2018.