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Jamaican health expert voices alarm over cancer deaths among Youths

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As the world grapples with a burgeoning health crisis caused by non-communicable diseases (NCDs), young Jamaicans are increasingly succumbing to these illnesses, including cancer. 

This alarming trend is part of a broader issue in the Caribbean, which suffers from the highest rate of premature mortality due to NCDs, signifying a disturbing trend of younger individuals dying from these conditions.

A regional health challenge

During the Medical Association of Jamaica (MAJ) 2024 symposium, themed ‘Resilience in Healthcare: A Global Imperative’, Dr. Tamu Davidson, Director of Non-Communicable Diseases and Injuries Prevention at the Health and Wellness Ministry, highlighted the urgent need to address these diseases. 

She emphasized that NCDs are a global emergency affecting every nation over many years.

The prevalence of environmental risk factors

Dr. Davidson pointed out the significant role environmental risk factors play in the high incidence of NCDs.

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These factors are notably prevalent in the Caribbean, contributing to early mortality from diseases such as cancer, which leads to premature deaths among NCDs. 

She noted that in Jamaica, a 30-year-old’s risk of dying from cancer is approximately 8.6 per cent. This statistic places Jamaica among the top three nations in the Americas for premature mortality, according to the latest Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) report.

Behavioral and non-behavioral risks

The discussion also covered various risk factors contributing to the rise in cancer rates, including delayed decisions regarding cancer screenings and the increase in lifestyle risks such as tobacco use, alcohol consumption, and obesity. 

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Dr. Davidson stressed that genetics and race are non-behavioral factors that also play a critical role, particularly within the Caribbean context.

Improving survival rates through early detection

Dr. Davidson advocated for the improvement of survival rates through better screening and early detection of common cancers. 

She cited the Ministry of Health’s efforts to enhance health infrastructure and reform primary healthcare, which form the foundation for health promotion and early medical intervention.

A patient-centric approach to health

Further enhancing the healthcare system, the Ministry of Health is focusing on a patient-centric and holistic approach.

This strategy involves tailoring health services to individual needs based on age and sex, thus ensuring more personalized care. Additionally, the ministry is expanding its secondary-care model to more effectively combat NCDs.

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