IN an excellent example of the old adage, “prevention is better than cure”, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh this week launched the Healthy Schools Initiative.
In a country in which diabetes is a chronic problem, and almost nearing crisis proportions, the minister has taken steps to prevent it and other non-communicable diseases from early, stressing the value of a good diet and regular exercise to pupils, who are being made aware of the pitfalls that await those who lead an unhealthy lifestyle.
“Bad diet, bad practices are literally killing us slowly,” the minister told pupils of Mt Hope Secondary School. “Children have symptoms of diabetes, obesity…children as young as 17 have kidney failure.
“When you eat, using all those forks and spoons to shovel up those fries, you are digging an early grave with your teeth,” he added bluntly. “If we continue amputating legs, you will be hobbling to an early grave. We are cutting off the legs of students in the 20s and teens. Let the diabetes crisis sink into us. Healthy Schools is an initiative to stop it.”
And the minister and the pupils themselves got first-hand confirmation of the situation at hand when six of the 67 pupils tested positive for high blood pressure and were taken to hospital.
Hopefully, they will be able to take heed of the impending problem and put the necessary corrective measures in place to attain good health.
But this is a glaring example of the deleterious effects of the “fast food” lifestyle that has been adopted by many in Trinidad and Tobago. It is a lifestyle that would only lead to serious health issues in the years ahead. And Minister Deyalsingh put it in context by warning that this country could “get bankrupt” if it does not get the problem of non-communicable diseases under control.
“Obesity, diabetes are going to put a drain on the society. NCDs have the potential to bankrupt the country if we continue paying for people who have NCDs. Everybody has to get on board with a healthier lifestyle,” he stated.
And to make it even more relevant for the pupils, the minister was accompanied by T&T’s first-ever Olympic gold medallist, Hasely Crawford, who himself suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure and showed two bags with blood pressure and diabetes gauges.
“If you don’t listen and eat right, this is what you will walk around with. Now I eat green vegetables, fruits, bananas, cucumbers and snack on nuts. Moderation is the key,” said Mr Crawford, who described himself as the “biggest junk food connoisseur”, which led to his becoming a diabetic.
What the minister and the Olympian could have also told pupils is that they would be dead within five to ten years if diabetes is not treated, the disease destroying the heart, kidney, nerves, and eyes, also leading to depression and early dementia.
It is indeed a serious situation and the Health Ministry must be lauded for its attempt to make everyone aware of the dire consequences of diabetes. It should be supported wholeheartedly in this project, which would eventually lead to a healthier nation.