By Sancheska Dorsett
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Bahamas has the 11th highest homicide rate in the world, triple the rate considered by the World Health Organization as an epidemic, Health Minister Dr Duane Sands revealed in the House of Assembly yesterday.
Dr Sands also revealed that The Bahamas has the “highest incidents” of diabetes in the world and 79.2 per cent of the population is obese or overweight.
Addressing parliamentarians during the budget debate, Dr Sands said the number one cause of death of the Bahamian male is a bullet and a recent crime study shows that between 2012 and 2015, 78 per cent of murder victims in The Bahamas died as a result of gunshot wounds.
Dr Sands said between 2012 and 2016, the Accident and Emergency (A & E) Department at the Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) managed 8,000 assault cases, 1,229 stabbing cases, and 1,078 gunshot wounds.
Just last year, the health minister said the Emergency Room saw 1,272 assaults, 246 stabbings and 216 gunshot wounds.
“We are in the world leaders in ways that are destructive to our social and economic well-being. We are one of the leaders in trauma due to gunshots and stabbing. The probability of dying from these types of injuries far exceeds the risk of death from cancer of HIV/Aids in the Bahamas,” Dr Sands said.
“From 2012 (to) now, the Bahamas holds the distinction of having the 11th highest homicide rate in the world. We are one of the most violent countries in the world; we beat, stab, shoot and rape each other at an unacceptable rate. Our homicide rate is triple the rate considered by the World Health Organization (WHO) as an epidemic. It is largely due to the professionalism of our health care team that our murder rate is not dramatically higher. In the last few years the number one cause of death of a Bahamian male is a bullet, not a stroke, not diabetes, but a bullet. He said the country’s infant mortality rate had hovered between 18 and 23 per 1,000 live births over the last four years - which are the highest in the non-Latin Caribbean.
“In 2016, preliminary data show an infant mortality rate of 19.2 and just so you have an idea of the standard in the United States, the infant mortality rate is six deaths per thousand live births, in Barbados its 11.6, in Cuba its 4.5 and in Haiti it is 59,” Dr Sands said.
“...We are a part of the Americas. The world is divided into six regions, we are a part of the Pan American Health Organisation. The Americas are the heaviest region in the world and the Bahamas is the heaviest country in the Americas. Most startling, overweight and obesity among school age youth have rocketed to 436 per cent since 1988 from 6.4 per cent to 34.2 percent.
“In an important study, 90 per cent of Bahamians eat less than five servings of fruit and vegetables a week as compared to 47.3 per cent in 2005. If we look deeper the problem starts from birth. Breastfeeding rates in the Bahamas are low and have varied between 10.9 per cent and 29 per cent. Breastfeeding for the first 16 weeks is considered a good start to a lifetime of healthy nutrition and has been shown to protect babies from diseases but we don’t believe in breastfeeding.
“Between 2005 and 2012 our nation saw a 13 per cent increase in overweight (people), a 14 per cent increase in obesity, a 55 per cent increase in hypertension and 160 per cent increase in diabetes. The Bahamas has the highest incidents of diabetes in the world. Women in the Bahamas, we have the highest incidents of a set of genes called BRCA1 and BRCA2 which is 800 per cent higher than the world average and what this means is that women in the Bahamas with these genes are three to five times to get breast and ovarian cancer than those without those genes.”
Dr Sands said at last tally, in December of 2014, there were 8,630 people living in the Bahamas with HIV/AIDS, representing 2 per cent of the population and one of the highest incidences outside Sub Saharan Africa.
“While we have dropped our national prevalence from three per cent to two per cent, far too many people are being diagnosed late and we are still seeing increasing cases among our youth,” he said.
“We have committed to a vision of zero new HIV infections, zero HIV-related deaths and zero HIV-related discrimination in a world where people living with HIV are able to live long and healthy lives.”
Dr Sands said it is because of these reasons and other factors that the country’s health care costs are so high. He said many persons are well on their way to the development of catastrophic complications of illnesses, violence and trauma.