|December 2008 Edition|
Caribbean Celebrates First Wellness Day
The high-profile event was kicked off by heads of government, ministers of health, and other dignitaries. It included scores of activities in dozens of communities promoting physical activity, healthy eating, and greater awareness about chronic disease control and treatment and the links between healthy living, risk factors, and longer, healthier lives.
"I want to kick off this day by recommending a series of specific steps everyone in the Caribbean can and should take every day to add years to their lives," said Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director Mirta Roses in a commentary published for the occasion. "You can participate in today's Caribbean Wellness Day and start the habit of doing these things every day and live as much as 14 years longer."
The chief target audience was adults 40 and over who currently engage in little or no physical activity. The key message was: you can live a longer, healthier life by following a few key pointers: don't smoke, consume no more than two alcoholic drinks per day, eat more fruits and vegetables and less salt and fat, and exercise at least 30 minutes per day (see below)
Planning for the event involved collaboration between the subregion's ministries of health and sports, chambers of commerce, local governments, and civil society groups.
"This was a good example of the kind of multisector partnerships and synergy among the public and private sectors and civil society that is essential to spur behavior change on a large scale," said James Hospedales, PAHO's senior advisor on prevention and control of chronic diseases.
PAHO was also an active participant in planning for the event. PAHO partnered with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to sponsor a workshop in Port-of-Spain,Trinidad and Tobago, lastMay on "Promoting Physical Activity in the Caribbean." PAHO also helped develop the Caribbean Wellness Day logo and slogan--"Love that Body!"--and produced posters and a video on "Heart Health" for use during the event and in ongoing wellness campaigns in its member countries.
In Anguilla, a walk-a-thon and a health fair.
In Barbados, a city health fair attended by thousands and featuring free exercise routines; screening for blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar; samples of healthy foods and drinks made with local produce; and street performances related to health and wellness.
In Belize, a family fun walk and 10-K run through Belize City, kicked off by Minister of Health Pablo Marin. Also, blood glucose, hypertension, and body mass (BMI) screening for some 300 people at a national trade show.
In the British Virgin Islands, a multiisland "Heart Healthy Walk" kicked off by Minister of Health Dancia Penn.
In Dominica, a health walk led by members of parliament for thousands of their constituents, and a special "Presidents-11" cricket match for political leaders, with 5,000 spectators cheering them on.
In Guyana, a fitness march and rally and Family Fun Day, with keynote messages by Minister of Health Leslie Ramsammy and PAHO/WHO Representative Kathleen Israel.
In Jamaica, a health festival in downtown Kingston featuring, among other things, blood pressure and glucose screening, Pap smears, foot care, and health-food presentations by PAHO's Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute. Also a 5-K walk/run and physical activity demonstrations.
In St. Kitts and Nevis, a "Walk for Health" led by Prime Minister Denzil Douglas, plus events promoting walking, cycling, jogging, and aerobics, and wellness messages carried by electronic and print media.
Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization