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It is a real honour being associated with this year’s Heart Foundation of Jamaica’s Health Fund Run.
For the past 37 years the Lions Club of Kingston, through the Heart Foundation of Jamaica, has been very active in minimizing the number of deaths due to heart disease.
The Foundation has now grown into an independent, registered, non-profit, non-governmental organization committed to its goals through programmes of prevention.
What I find most interesting about the Foundation is that its programmes are aimed at the entire Jamaican population. Not just a select few, and therefore its work must be of extreme importance to all of us who are concerned about the health of the nation.
I know that a budget of $40 million is not nearly enough to do all that is needed to meet the needs of those who depend on the Foundation. But, it’s a tribute to board members, the staff, donors and sponsors that it has been able to make such a significant contribution for so many years.
This month marks the 30th anniversary of the Heart Health Fun Run, thanks mainly to the efforts of the late Vic Higgs and his successors like Mr. John Bullock.
The significance of this is that, heart or cardiovascular disease is the major cause of deaths in Jamaica, irrespective of what you may believe about violent crimes.
And it can affect anyone regardless of age, status or occupation.
Heart disease has a number of risk factors.
We have no control over some factors like our family history. But, there are some risk factors which we can eliminate or modify.
These include: smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, diabetes, obesity and physical inactivity.
The records show that lack of physical activity is more closely related to heart disease that what we ingest.
A study published recently in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, based on data on about 10,000 participants, showed that those who eat more, but exercise, are far less likely to die from cardiovascular disease than those who fail to exercise.
Becoming physically fit can reduce the impact of many risks for heart disease including – high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, heart failure, stroke and abnormal heart beats.
Doctors usually recommend lifestyle changes as a first step in controlling high blood pressure.
Elevated bad cholesterol levels are risk factors for heart disease and, judging from a number of studies, it is obvious that exercise is at least effective in improving blood cholesterol and reducing heart disease.
There is also evidence to prove that exercise programmes significantly reduce the death rate and hospital admissions among participants.
Physical inactivity is a major risk factor in developing artery disease and regular aerobic physical activity increases your fitness level and capacity for exercise.
Studies have shown that people who modify their behaviour and start regular physical activity after heart attack have better rates of survival and better quality of life.
Although my ministry is not directly involved in the government’s healthy lifestyle programme, which actually falls under the Ministry of Health, as Minister with responsibility for Sport, I am committed to a renewed focus on sports as an element of national transformation.
We look at sports in the context of re-engaging communities, as a tool of social transformation.Our work is to provide opportunities for our people to get involved in recreational activities through community sports.
Through the Social Development Commission (SDC), we are putting in place a number of programmes to make sports and recreation an integral part of the healthy lifestyle programme of the country.
Through the Sport Development Foundation, we have been upgrading sporting facilities and building new ones.
Between January and December this year, the SDF will have spent almost $104 million on a number of sports related projects, including:
. the upgrading of 30 multipurpose courts in communities and schools including an institution for specially challenged youngsters, all of which will benefit 10 parishes and 14 communities;. Upgrading and construction of 9 playfields;. contributing to the upgrading of sports complexes in several communities;. fencing of 11 of these facilities, including courts and playfields;;. and increasing our contribution to the GC Foster National Sports College, as well as rehabilitating their swimming pool.
We are continuing the upgrading of the facilities at Independence Park in Kingston.
Our resources are limited, but we aim to work with the private sector in improving these recreational facilities.
My ministry intends to integrate our culture and sport portfolios, which are the most formidable elements of Brand Jamaica.
We intend to establish a sports museum. And, in terms of the Trelawny Multipurpose Sports Complex, that property has been earmarked for the development of a multipurpose sports and entertainment complex.
This facility is located in an area where there is an absence of sports facilities, and we believe that it offers opportunity for the creation of the type of venue we need to showcase this rich heritage.
And finally, I want to tell you that we have started work on developing a dynamic and effective sports policy. The groundwork is well underway and we have been collecting the necessary data.
We need to have a policy to guide us, if we are to really benefit from all the initiatives that we have planned.
The programmes must be implemented in a co-ordinated and integrated way.
So, while we do not expect that events like the Heart Health Fund will produce some of the athletes we will need to improve on our record performance at the Summer Olympics in London in twenty twelve (2012), we appreciate the fact that you are playing your part in encouraging Jamaicans to be healthy and fit.
Each time you stage this event, it reminds people about the benefits of being healthy, and it helps us to reduce the burden on the health system caused by heart disease which is still the number one killer in Jamaica.
I encourage companies, schools, individuals, groups as well as families to collect sponsorship forms and flyers from the Heart Foundation at Beechwood Avenue and show your support for this year’s event.
The Fund Run is not a race in which you vie for medals, it is a race in which you vie for life, and there is no greater accolade than a long and healthy life.
I thank the sponsors of this year’s event, especially WISYNCO, who through their Welch Juices, is a major sponsor.
Thank you all for coming today and supporting the launch of this important venture.