CARICOM claims major victory on communicable diseases

Taking credit for pushing the United Nations into signing on, Caribbean governments say they are mounting a spirited lobbying campaign to get world leaders to attend the first global summit on non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, given the growing evidence that such diseases are on the rise in its own area of influence.

Trade bloc spokesman Leonard Robertson said the region is “taking all the credit” for pushing the UN into agreeing to hold the in New York summit in September, after organizing its own emergency meeting on the issue in Trinidad in 2007, when leaders decided to ask the U.N. to consider staging a special conference on the issue. The two-day meeting is slated to begin on Sept. 19.

“It is the decision of Caribbean leaders in 2007 that got the U.N. to pass the motion to hold the high-level summit,” he said, noting the work Caribbean diplomats at the U.N. did after the 2007 meeting to bring it to a stage where the U.N. Secretariat is now preparing for the conference.

Hypertension — or the so-called silent killer disease, is known to affect nearly half of the people in the region over age 40, while cases of diabetes are on the rise and is set to affect up to 30 percent of people in the 15-nation trade bloc.

Robertson said two ministers from the region have just returned from a preparatory ministerial conference in Russia that was attended by more than 100 countries, as the U.N. gets read for the Fall summit.

He said regional diplomats are heading lobby teams to try to ensure that attendance at the summit is at the highest level, after working to initially persuade governments to sign on to the holding of the conference, the first on this aspect of health.

Robertson would not be drawn to discuss whether President Barack Obama will be among the leaders targeted, saying that from all current appearances, the meeting is on course to have the type of high-level attendance that was originally hoped for.

Regional health officials blame poor diet, greater use of American oily fast foods and a generation that is exercising less, for the increase of diabetes, hypertension and other chronic but non-communicable diseases.

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