Tue | Jan 19, 2021

Data: Obesity exacerbates effects of COVID-19

Published:Sunday | November 22, 2020 | 7:58 AM
Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton displays interim guidelines for the clinical management of diabetes in Jamaica, during the virtual launch of the Public-Private Partnership for Non-Communicable Diseases pilot programme, on November 1.

Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton says data indicate that obesity exacerbates the effects of coronavirus (COVID-19). The minister, who was addressing the virtual launch of the ministry’s Public-Private Partnership for Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) pilot programme, on November 17, said obese persons, particularly those suffering from NCDs, including cancer, hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases are at higher risk of the worst effects of the virus.

“Persons with diabetes are up to three times more likely, according to what I am told by the experts, to have severe symptoms or die from COVID-19. Hypertension and cardiovascular disease increase the odds for severe COVID-19 by 2.3 and 2.9 times, respectively. In other words, the chances of you dying, having hypertension or cardiovascular disease, are significantly increased if you get the COVID virus,” the minister said.


“The obesity issues are real and COVID-19 has amplified that … [This virus] has re-emphasised the correlation between lifestyle and personal health vulnerabilities. You only need to look as far as the data on NCDs or comorbidities and the persons who have been most impacted by the virus,” the minister added.

Dr Tufton also noted that persons suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are at increased risk of severe complications from COVID-19. He said figures also indicate significantly higher mortality rates for persons with cancer, particularly cancer of the blood.

To combat this, he said the ministry is prioritising the reduction of NCDs among the population, to safeguard this group against the virus.

“The data suggest that those who have an NCD or multiple NCDs suffer the worst effects of the virus. When you combine that with age, the effect is even more severe,” he said.

The minister reiterated the Government’s commitment to responding to the fundamental health challenges to public health.

“We have to bring back the focus on NCDs. It is essential and it cannot be ignored,” he emphasised. The public-private partnership for NCDs pilot programme aims to maintain essential primary care services for non-coronavirus patients with diabetes and hypertension seeking treatment in the public health sector.

This objective will be achieved through collaboration with private practitioners in providing routine health-service delivery to patients with NCDs in the management of their illnesses.