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Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Consultant on Chronic Disease Prevention and Control, Dr. Alafia Samuels, has expressed the hope that the concept of Caribbean Wellness Day will stimulate increased physical activity and exercise among individuals, thereby contributing to reducing the factors causing chronic diseases.
Caribbean Wellness Day, which is celebrated on the second Saturday in September, evolved out of the Declaration of Port-of-Spain, agreed on by CARICOM Heads of Government during a meeting in Trinidad in 2007. The Declaration outlines the framework guiding a broad scale united effort by member countries to combat the spread of chronic non communicable diseases.
Speaking at a recent church and faith-based organisations chronic disease forum, held at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, in Kingston, Dr. Samuels pointed out that chronic diseases accounted for 60 per cent of deaths in Jamaica and the region. Singling out hypertension, she described this “silent killer” as the greatest “risk factor” for deaths in the region, lamenting that a significant number of the persons who have it are oblivious of the fact.
To this end, she said increased physical activity, among other things, could play a significant role in reducing the incidence of chronic diseases, and implored churches and faith-based organisations to play an active role in this regard, along with other stakeholders.
“Ninety per cent of our people are not doing enough exercise, and we are hoping that we can use Caribbean Wellness Day as a kind of stimulus to get people started and to keep it going. Wellness has to be an everyday undertaking,” Dr. Samuels emphasised.
Alluding to Trinidad and Tobago’s ‘Sunday Family Funday’, which sees sections of roadways being blocked off on Sundays between 6:00 a.m. and 12:00 noon to facilitate exercise-oriented activities, Dr. Samuels challenged local stakeholders to pursue similar initiatives.
“I think one of the things we can do is to encourage our members to bring their sneakers to church, and after service, we go out and we walk. Encourage our congregations to walk for half an hour after church every Sunday. You can also participate by trying to create healthy walking environments in and around your communities. You have to create the environment, and a lot of times if the environment is there, people will come out and participate,” she said.
Dr. Samuels also urged churches and faith-based organisations to organise support activities, such as screenings for blood sugar, hypertension and weight for their members, who should be encouraged to get regular check-ups, as well as take their prescribed medication.
“Half of the people who are on prescribed medication for chronic disease,… stop taking them within six months. If you’re not taking the medication, then you are not going to be able to control your blood pressure and other ailments,” she pointed out, adding that: “our messages this year are: no tobacco; exercise 30 minutes a day, so as to cut your heart attack risk in half; eat less salt, less fat, less fried food, and check your blood pressure regularly, it’s a silent killer”.
This year, Wellness Day is being celebrated on Sunday, September 13, with Jamaica’s theme for the day being: ‘Love your body… Treat your body right’. The Ministry of Health has planned several activities for the day, which will be centred around Half-Way-Tree square, St. Andrew. The events are scheduled to get underway at 10:00 a.m. and will include: a 5K run/walk; free health checks; a wellness centre; nutrition village; and a concert.

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