TRINIDAD and Tobago is a grossly unhealthy country where 61 percent of deaths of people before the age of 70 are due to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and lung cancer.

Speaking yesterday at a Portof- Spain Rotary Club luncheon at Lions Civic Centre, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said since the signing of the Portof- Spain Declaration in 2007, we have made very little progress.

“What we have had are PR (public relations) stunts which never have lasting impressions on the psychology of the people to change their habits,” he said.

The minister said the challenge for NCDs was not building more hospitals to amputate more legs, but it was one of societal change, and how we as a society could make the change that needed to be made to stifle the surge of NCDs. “Our health means becoming wholeheartedly engaged with our own health care. When you accept what society is offering you, you are outsourcing your health to an outside agency,” he said.

Deyalsingh said in times of economic challenges we had to innovate and this did not mean technology or more money but the willingness and the ability to prepare to do things differently.

He said this could be done by changing habits and creating new opportunities to take care of oneself.

He added that the burden of NCDs was not only financial, but a great part of it was paid for by the State.