St. Lucia in International Health News
Arecent journal article indicates that St. Lucian women appear to be at greater risk for the development of metabolic syndrome than their male counterparts. Metabolic syndrome, which refers to the co-occurrence of various factors including a waist measurement greater than 40 inches for men and greater than 35 inches for females, increases the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD). These illnesses are part of the global epidemic of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) that according to the World Health Organization are responsible for 63% of all deaths worldwide. The vast majority of these deaths (80%) occur in low and middleincome countries like St. Lucia. The research article entitled “Prevalence of Risk factors for the Metabolic Syndrome in the middle income Caribbean nation of Saint Lucia” was published in the journal “Advances in Preventive Medicine.”
The article indicates that St. Lucian adults in general, both male and female, need to pay closer attention to their lifestyles since current patterns promote the development of metabolic syndrome and associated non-communicable diseases. The main lifestyle/ behavioral risk factors for metabolic syndrome are physical inactivity, poor diet, alcohol use and tobacco use. Obesity, measured by body mass index (BMI) is also a risk factor for metabolic syndrome. According to standard classification a BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight while a BMI above 30 is considered obese.
The research study on which the article is based, found some interesting gender differences among St. Lucians. More females (56%) than males (18%) had a waist size equal to or exceeding the indicator for metabolic syndrome. More females (36%) than males (22%) reported a sedentary lifestyle and females had a higher average BMI (28.8) than males (26.5). Conversely however, more males (65%) than females (43%) reported alcohol consumption, and similarly more males (13%) than females (1%) reported tobacco use. Of all of these lifestyle/behavioral factors, physical inactivity is most strongly associated with increased risk of development of metabolic syndrome. Therefore, it is imperative that St. Lucian men and especially women engage in some form of regular exercise.
Diet is also an important modifiable lifestyle factor for CVD and although this study did not address this aspect, two other studies undertaken by this research team addressed diet among St. Lucians. The results of these studies will be released shortly.
The harsh reality is that many countries like ours are carrying a double burden of disease as they deal with infectious diseases (like Chikungunya) while also confronting the epidemic of diabetes, heart disease and other non-communicable diseases. It is imperative therefore, that effective, costefficient measures be found and implemented. In an effort to explore possible options, Elizabeth Serieux, one of the authors of the study, is planning to undertake another research project here in St. Lucia during December 2014 and January 2015. The upcoming project aims to investigate whether text messaging can be an effective tool to improve knowledge and behavior related to obesity and associated noncommunicable diseases. Liz, a Saint Lucian citizen (daughter of Michael and Sylvesta Serieux), is a Doctoral Candidate in Public Health at the University of Georgia in the United States. She previously earned a Masters Degree in Public Health (MPH) from the University of Georgia and was awarded the prize for Most Outstanding Student in Health Policy. She also earned certificates in Global Health, Disaster Management and Gerontology and was the first student in the College to simultaneously complete all three. Liz says this was important for her to do because “all of these areas are tremendously relevant to health and life in St. Lucia and the wider Caribbean and since I intend to work in the area of Population Health, I wanted to ensure that I am excellently equipped to address all of these issues.”
Liz goes on to state that: “the research participants and the facilitators at the various data collection sites (Tapion Hospital, Victoria Hospital, Rodney Bay Medical Center and EM Care) were truly phenomenal like most St. Lucians generally are.” She sincerely thanks them all and shares the findings, “so we can begin to take the necessary action”. Liz is also looking forward to implementing the upcoming “text message” research project and extends an invitation to all St. Lucian adults to be on the lookout and to “opt in” to participate in January. This upcoming study will be implemented island-wide. Further details will be provided closer to the date and in the meantime, if you would like to participate in the upcoming study, assist with implementation or if you have questions or comments, please contact Liz at email@example.com.
The full text of the current study can be found in: Advances in Preventive Medicine: Volume 2014 (2014), Article ID 501972.
St Lucian doctoral candidate Elizabeth Serieux.