THE recent decision to start stopping the use of sugary drinks in schools across Saint Lucia is a very good move.
Some may claim that ‘it’s too late’. But it’s never too late to start doing something good. Others may also argue that ‘it’s not enough’. But here too, everything has to start somewhere.
The move announced by the Education and Health authorities last week has to be examined within the broader national context.
The decision (if that is what it is) must be applauded as a good starting point in a diabetic nation. But how far will that go in a situation where companies compete to produce, market and distribute the same drinks nationally?
And what about all the sweets (and other sugary substances) being sold daily and consistently, especially targeting infant and primary students, within the school compound or just outside the surrounding fence?
The reality is that Saint Lucia is still the World Diabetic Capital – the country with the highest rate of diabetic sufferers per head of population on earth.
This is not a status we sought or bought. It’s just a reality we have been living with long before the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) crowned our country with this unhealthy global designation in 2006.
Naturally, this is not a status that any country can be proud of. But it certainly isn’t something to be ashamed of either.
Unfortunately, our health authorities – starting with Health Ministers – have in the 12 years since the designation behaved as if this is not something to be given the priority it really deserves.
They have not been highlighting this fact in any way that will encourage others to see or feel that we are taking this matter seriously.
It can be argued that since Saint Lucia is the country with the worst diabetic record worldwide, it therefore means that Saint Lucia is the country most in need of support to fight and overcome both the designation and the disease.
It also follows that given our smallness of size and population, the extent of danger posed to the nation can be addressed with sufficient international support.
But do our health authorities see the picture in this light? It doesn’t appear so.
It would be of great help, we believe, if Saint Lucia – as a UN member-state – was to use the designation given us by the UN agencies to launch an international appeal at the UN level for assistance to overcome the national diabetic plight.
Diabetes became our number-one national health problem precisely because we ignored it for too long.
For quite some time we remained without doctors specializing in diabetes – and even the very few who now exist cannot be enough to lead or help a national public campaign to not only inform people. But we definitely need to start addressing the problem with a resolution in mind.
The world community has rightfully designated us as who we actually are, so it follows that it should be equally willing to help us overcome it.
No matter how much we may not like the designation, the reason (for it) will not disappear just because of how we feel.
It’s about time, therefore, that we understand and accept the need to take the diabetes bull by the horns and turn this unpleasant designation on its head by putting it to work for us.
Let’s get it on.