Hugh Reid, General Manager of JN Life Insurance, is urging Jamaicans to take their health seriously given the potential impact of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) on the economy and productivity in the next five years.

Mr. Reid said a Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) report has revealed that Jamaica could lose an estimated $47 billion in workforce productivity over the next 15 years, if more is not done to reduce the impact of NCD on the population.

 “Over the years, the number of persons with NCDs has been increasing. This means that the economic impact on the country has the potential to be devastating because of the number of hours that will be lost to people missing work to treat various illnesses associated with NCDs,” Mr. Reid stated.

“Based on studies from the Pan American Health Organisation and the Ministry of Health and Wellness, the projected financial loss in workforce productivity over the next 15 years, could be as high as $47 billion dollars,” he added.

NCDs are not transmitted from person to person via direct or indirect contact. They are, however, heavily influenced by lifestyle choices. The most common NCDs include cardiovascular diseases (such as heart attacks and stroke), cancers, chronic respiratory diseases (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma) and diabetes. NCDs share several common, modifiable risk factors – tobacco use, harmful alcohol abuse, physical inactivity, and unhealthy diet.

Mr. Reid added that the cost to treat NCDs is also taking a toll on the country’s resources.

“Last year in the House of Representatives, the Minister of Health and Wellness revealed during his budget presentation that it cost the National Health Fund (NHF) more than $1.2 billion to treat hypertension, up from $940 million in 2015. It also cost the NHF $1.4 billion to treat diabetes. which was 59 per cent more than 2015/16. What this means is that in the upcoming years the sustainability of the NHF will be called into question as more Jamaicans are diagnosed with these illnesses,” he revealed.

Mr. Reid added that the insurance industry has also felt the impact of NCDs.

“In 2021 for instance, there was a 50 per cent increase in payout by insurance companies for persons diagnosed with critical illnesses over 2019. Many of the illnesses that qualify for critical illness coverage have their origins in lifestyle diseases. Therefore, it is important that more persons take care of their health because this could affect the premiums for coverage in the industry as well,” he stated

He added that this will also have repercussions on the economic survival of families. “The impact of NCDs can wipe out life savings. It is even more telling when you realize that one in three Jamaicans is hypertensive; one in eight is diabetic; and one third of the population will be diagnosed with a chronic illness,” he said.

“This unfortunate reality strengthens the need for us to ensure that there are affordable insurance solutions so that persons can prepare for some of these events without eroding the economic gains they’ve made. There is an urgent need for Jamaicans to invest in critical illness insurance plans to assist with mitigating the huge costs associated with treating chronic diseases.”

Mr. Reid wants Jamaicans to take steps to prevent NCDs, noting that prevention is always best

“Prevention, based on the NCD and lifestyle epidemic, is always our best route. It is cheaper than the cure. Therefore, the message for 2023 is to encourage more Jamaicans to focus on their health,” he added.