(PRESS RELEASE VIA SNO) – PAHO, UNICEF, and the Ministry of Health have combined forces in an effort to identify health gaps in children which may contribute to chronic diseases and affect their learning abilities in the future.
Saint Lucia is currently the 6th Caribbean country to partake in a regional study referred to as (CRUISE) Caribbean Island Urinary Iodine and Salt Survey. The study which involves children in the age range of 6-12, focuses primarily on sodium and Iodine levels in their urine. District Medical Officer and NCD Focal Point, Dr. Sharon Cyr-Philbert, said high sodium levels and low Iodine levels can lead to many complications especially chronic disease.
High sodium levels are linked to diseases such as high blood pressure, leading to stroke etc. and low Iodine levels can affect the brain and affect the children’s ability to learn, but of course that can be reversed so we want to pick up where we are in terms of Iodine levels, sodium levels in our children and know what we need to do about it”.
“We’re doing a very small survey for now, we just randomly chose two schools. We are using Carmen Rene and we are using the Micoud Primary, so in total we are going to get urine samples from 200 children. We have seen over the years, chronic disease such as high blood pressure, diabetes etc. Those are our main cause of death in Saint Lucia and the wider world.
Medicine Professor from Switzerland, Michael Zimmermann believes it is important to practice proper eating habits from a tender age.
“Food habits are learned early in life, so if a child 6-12 years of age is eating a high salt diet that’s something that they will continue to do for the rest of their life and of course that can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease. So the Ministry of Health would like to get an idea of how much salt the children are eating or what are the main sources of salt in order to develop a program to try to reduce salt intake at this young age and hopefully that will establish healthy life long habits”.
Meanwhile, Acting Principal of Carmen Rene Memorial School, CyianaNorley-George said, this study is not only beneficial to the students but the communities by extension.
“I think this research project is an excellent opportunity for us as a staff as a school to more less decide on the students in terms of their health benefits that a study of that nature would more less provide because we know that with Iodine it helps with the development of the brain and more less to help our students to learn and so a project of that nature provides our students with that opportunity to be more informed and you know when you train or teach a child, you more less train a community because they go back to their homes and inform their parents of what works and what doesn’t”.
The Urine samples will be taken to a lab in Switzerland for testing. The results will be sent to Ministry of Health within two months where necessary policies and actions will be implemented to address them.