Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) continue to be a concern in Trinidad and Tobago because of a high and increasing prevalence of risk factors in the population. These include several modifiable behavioral risk factors such as unhealthy diets, obesity, unhealthy habits like smoking and excessive alcohol consumption and lack of physical activity. If left unchanged, these modifiable behaviours can lead to chronic Non-Communicable Diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer.
Without action, the increasing prevalence of NCDs can result in a tremendous burden to the public health system, consuming health, financial and other resources which could be otherwise deployed.
The recent COVID-19 pandemic further highlighted to need for better control of NCDs nationally as data suggested higher mortality and morbidity rates in persons living with NCDs who contracted COVID-19 than in those without.
In direct response to the NCD challenge in Trinidad and Tobago, the Ministry of Health, which is the national authority charged with the oversight of the entire local health system, launched the National Strategic Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases (2017-2021) on May 3rd, 2017.
Trinidad and Tobago Moves (TT Moves) was launched in direct response to the prevalence of NCDs among the local population and is a direct offshoot of the wider Caribbean Moves project.
Caribbean Moves is an initiative launched collectively by all the CARICOM Heads of Government present at the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 27th, 2018. This initiative was set to address frontally, the challenges posed by NCDs throughout the region. Minister of Health, the Hon. Terrence Deyalsingh, signed on to this commitment on behalf of Trinidad and Tobago.
Under the overarching umbrella of TT Moves, some of the initiatives launched include ‘Water Wednesdays’, ‘Fruit Fridays’ and ‘Shape-Up Saturdays’, to underscore the cultural change required to achieve a lifestyle of regular physical activity and healthier diets.
Water Wednesday aims to encourage members of the public to increase their consumption of water as opposed to sugar sweetened beverages.
Fruit Friday aims to encourage members of the public to include fruit and vegetables daily as an integral part of their diet.
Shape Up Saturday aims to encourage members of the public to adopt physical activity as a part of their health regime
The above initiatives are supported by the recent TT Moves signage project, where signs were placed at all health centres throughout the country, encouraging persons to do the following:
- Get Moving - With recommendations of 30 minutes of exercise a day or making 4000-7000 steps a day.
- Drink Water - At least 8-10 glasses of water a day. Each glass should be at least 250ml.
- Eat Fruits and Vegetables - At least 2-4 servings of fruits daily and eating vegetables with every meal.