(Observer)A survey to collect comprehensive information on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) has been officially launched in Antigua and Barbuda, the first national assessment to collect complete data on persons aged 18-69.
The Ministry of Health, Wellness, Social Transformation and the Environment launched the national STEPS Survey, a Non-Communicable Diseases Risk factor population-based study.
It is being conducted in partnership with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) with funding provided by the Government of Canada.
According to statistics, NCDs are the leading cause of death in Antigua and Barbuda, significantly burdening economic and social development.
Considering the risk factors, Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Teri-Ann Joseph said at Tuesday’s launch that the government’s priority is ensuring it can adequately monitor and manage.
“The information gathered from this serving will undoubtedly build and strengthen the Ministry of Health’s capacity to conduct surveillance of NCDs and provide the required information to guide the development and implementation of programs, plans, and policies,” she said.
The STEPS survey is a simple sequential standardied method for collecting, analysing, and disseminating data. It gathers information through physical measurements, for example, blood pressure, height, and weight.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Sir Molwyn Joseph considers it a life-saving initiative, stating that there is nothing more significant a government can do for its people than to attempt to protect their lives.
Antigua and Barbuda, much like other Caribbean islands, lacks a well-organised surveillance system to keep track of NCD cases. Therefore, the STEPS programme plays a vital role in addressing this issue, according to Sir Molwyn.
“We need to have a structured system to inform government policies and strategies to fight NCDs,” he said.
The Ministry of Health, according to the minister in charge, has a high priority to prevent and control NCDs and to strengthen its epidemiology and surveillance unit.
“This STEPS is critical as it will give vital information to facilitate the development and implementation of policies and intervention aimed at tackling NCDs,” he said.
Tackling NCDs is not only a priority for Antigua and Barbuda, Sir Molwyn said, with hundreds of countries worldwide facing the same predicament.
Acting Permanent Secretary, Dezrie Akez, Acting PAHO/WHO Representative for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Countries, Dr Prabhjot Singh, PAHO Country Specialist for Antigua and Barbuda, Dr Gemma Cherry and Senior Statistician within the Statistics Division, Rohan Anthony, were also part of the event.
The equipment that will be used to carry out the survey, including stadiometers, scales, tape measures, cholesterol and glucose monitors with strips, validated blood pressure machines, and tablets for data collection, were officially handed over to the Ministry during the survey’s launch.
The surveys will be held from August 23 to November 30, and residents are encouraged to open their doors for the necessary interviews. All information will remain confidential.
Another survey is expected to be repeated in five years.