|December 2008 Edition|
Caribbean Celebrates First Wellness Day
Participants in a heart-healthy walk pose for a group photo in Jost Van Dyke, the British Virgin Islands.
Photo courtesy Jost Van Dyke CWD Coordinating Committee, BVI
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.
A Barbadian senior gets screened for hypertension. Photo by Andy Taitt/PAHO
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.
Residents of Bridgetown, Barbados, take a free aerobics class. Photo by Andy Taitt/PAHO
In Suriname, 2.5 kilometers of city streets declared "car-free zones" for walking and biking.Also, break dancing, line dancing, judo, karate, taekwando, Thai boxing, football and hoop shooting, and exercises for the elderly, plus BMI and blood sugar screening, nutrition information, and health promotion messages on radio and TV and in print.
In Trinidad and Tobago, city streets closed to traffic and transformed into wellness zones where people could walk, ride, skate, wheel and otherwise "move for health," as well as get screened for blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol. Partners for the events included the Ministry of Health, PAHO, and the Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce.
Caribbean Wellness Day was proposed in the Declaration of Port-of-Spain, issued at the end of the historic CARICOM Heads of State Summit on chronic diseases in Trinidad and Tobago in September 2007.The declaration also called on all Caribbean countries to develop "comprehensive plans for the screening and management of chronic diseases and risk factors so that, by 2012, 80 percent of people with noncommunicable chronic diseases would receive quality care and have access to preventative education based on regional guidelines."
Canada's Public Health Agency supported preparatory work for both the Heads of State Summit and Caribbean Wellness Day.