Seychelles to host regional health colloquium, national health stats 'alarming'
Things have worsened in the percentage of people who are obese or overweight. (Seychelles News Agency)
Seychelles' Cabinet of Ministers has given its approval for the island nation to host the 19th annual Indian Ocean colloquium on HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis and Addictology from 13-15 November.
The statement was made by Vice President Ahmed Afif in a press briefing on the Cabinet decisions on Thursday.
"It is a group that Seychelles is part of and every year one of the countries hosts it. In 2019, we made a commitment that we will host it in 2023. Around 200 delegates will attend and we will have the opportunity to learn from the professionals.
The groups consist of Seychelles, Mauritius, Madagascar, Reunion and Comoros.
Island nation's health situation 'alarming'
Afif said that the Cabinet was also briefed on the nation's health and health services through professional presentations.
He said the situation is alarming as in many instances things have become worse and the principal factors are cigarette smoking, alcohol and drug use, eating habits and behaviour.
"The situation is quite alarming in the sense that they looked at the principal symptoms our people are suffering from. Many of them have to do with heart diseases, diabetes, cancer and lung diseases. These are principally non-communicable illnesses which means they are either hereditary or related to people's lifestyles. They compared our lifestyle from 1989 to around 2013," said Afif.
He said the areas where there are improvements in the number of people who used to smoke. In 1989, it amounted to 30 percent of Seychelles' population and now it is 17 percent. People with high blood pressure have gone down from 38 percent to 30 percent and cholesterol from 45 percent to 36 percent.
Things have worsened in the percentage of people who are obese or overweight. In 1989, it was 40 percent and now it is 64 percent. Furthermore, among the girls up to Secondary 4 (15-16 years) - 35 percent are overweight and among the boys in the same age group it is 30 percent. Diabetes was found in only 6 percent of the population and has almost doubled to 11 percent.
In Seychelles, healthcare is free and, therefore, changes in illness factors have a direct impact on the government's budget.
"We believe that it is alarming because these are the factors that tomorrow will put a cost on services offered by the Ministry of Health. The report shows that one of the illnesses caused by these factors is kidney disease which means dialysis and today we are spending around SCR 80 million [$6.25 million] for 200 patients. There are other diseases that come with a heavy cost like overseas treatment for around 200 cancer patients at SCR 50 million [$3.9 million] every year. This comes to a total of SCR 130 million [$10.2 million], which represents 10 percent of the health ministry's budget for the 400 patients," he said.
He said this is alarming for the Cabinet because if the number of patients doubled it will mean that less than 1 percent of Seychelles' population is using 20 percent of the health budget.
He gave other treatment costs per patient per month.
"Many people talk about the cost of the methadone treatment but in fact, there are other illnesses costing us more. The medical cost of methadone is SCR150 [$12] each month for one patient. A person on the anti-retroviral treatment for HIV is SCR 1,600 [$125] per month, tuberculosis is SCR 350 [$27] per month, or hepatitis SCR 4,000 [$312] per month, dialysis SCR 33,000 [$2600] per month, for overseas treatment on average is 21,000 [$1600] per month," said Afif.
He said that this is why the Ministry of Health needs a budget of SCR1.3 billion [$78 million ] per year while many of the constraints it is facing are coming from outside the Ministry.
"So, we must at all cost look for ways to control those illnesses that we can because some like cancer is often hereditary and beyond our control. What we can control is the way we eat, encourage our people to do more exercises, consume less cigarettes, alcohol and drugs," he added.
Afif reminded people that "our health is our responsibility."
He said that "in the short term, the government must take note of the current situation and we must accept if are at fault and correct them. In the presentation, the professionals also recommended what we must do to improve the situation."