The overall health of Saint Lucians is expected to improve significantly, thanks to a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed recently by His Excellency Peter Chia-yen Chen, Taiwan’s Ambassador to Saint Lucia, and Hon. Moses Jn. Baptiste, Minister for Health, Wellness and Elderly Affairs.
The MoU, themed “Public Health Bilateral Capacity Building Project for the Prevention and Control of Metabolic Chronic Diseases”, forms part of the Framework Agreement on Technical Cooperation between the Republic of China (Taiwan) and Saint Lucia. The overall aim of this project is to reduce modifiable risk factors for non-communicable diseases such as insufficient physical activity and unhealthy diets through the creation of health-promoting environments, thus improving NCD primary and secondary prevention.
The signing ceremony was held on Thursday, March 2, 2023, in the conference room of the Ministry of Health on Castries Waterfront. The mandate of the MoU is to prevent and control metabolic chronic diseases.
“Working closely with communities and medical specialists, this project aims to strengthen the capacity of health systems in prevention and control of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) with a holistic strategy,” His Excellency Peter Chia-yen Chen, Taiwan’s Ambassador to Saint Lucia, said at the signing ceremony. “This MoU not only represents a milestone of bilateral cooperation between Taiwan and Saint Lucia, but also sets the foundation for stronger connection and partnership of our two countries.”
Ambassador Chen added that: “As a reliable development partner, Taiwan has forged a robust collaborative relationship with the Saint Lucia Government on medical and public health issues. When the world faced the challenges of COVID-19, Taiwan stood with Saint Lucia by sharing knowledge, providing medical supplies and vaccines. In the post-pandemic era, NCDs posed enormous threat against people’s livelihoods. Taiwan remains firm and resolute in its commitment to Saint Lucia, just as we always did.
Meanwhile, Hon. Moses Jn. Baptiste, Minister for Health, Wellness and Elderly Affairs, said preserving the longevity of the current generation and the enduring health of future generations is crucial to national development.
“Today marks yet another opportunity to partner with the officials and our friends from Taiwan as we target one of our greatest challenges to socio-economic development, the burden on health posed by non-communicable diseases (NCDs),” Hon. Jn. Baptiste said. “For many years, diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases have claimed the majority of lives lost in our island, Saint Lucia.”
He added: “The Republic of China (Taiwan) has, over the years, proven to be a leader in innovative technologies within multiple sectors, including agriculture and health. For decades, Taiwan has explored the benefits of new health strategies and has provided support to other countries like Saint Lucia through technical cooperation, human resource development, education and training. These initiatives have produced gains such as improved food security, income generation and increased resilience to natural disasters. In the health sector, Taiwanese assistance and cooperation have strengthened our health sector, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
For many decades, non-communicable diseases have contributed significantly to mortality in Saint Lucia, the Ministry of Health, Wellness and Elderly Affairs said. In a survey done in 2020, the prevalence of NCD metabolic risk factors such as obesity and raised blood pressure showed that 65% of the representative sample of Saint Lucians aged 18 to 69 years old were overweight or obese, while 37.3% without a prior diagnosis of hypertension were found to have raised blood pressure. Additionally, the percentage of individuals with three or more risk factors for developing major NCDs was 35.4% of the sample population.