- The Ministry of Health recently held its first camp for ambassadors of the Jamaica Moves Initiative in the Western Region, which is aimed at spreading messages about health and wellness throughout the nation’s schools, as well as preventing the nation’s youth from acquiring non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
- Director of Health Promotion and Education at the Ministry of Health, Takese Foga, tells JIS News that the camp focused on the three key areas of the Jamaica Moves Programme – healthy eating, physical activity and age-appropriate health checks.
- “[This] will help children and teenagers have a better understanding of non-communicable diseases and what are the things that can be used to prevent them,” she states.
The Ministry of Health recently held its first camp for ambassadors of the Jamaica Moves Initiative in the Western Region, which is aimed at spreading messages about health and wellness throughout the nation’s schools, as well as preventing the nation’s youth from acquiring non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
Director of Health Promotion and Education at the Ministry of Health, Takese Foga, tells JIS News that the camp focused on the three key areas of the Jamaica Moves Programme – healthy eating, physical activity and age-appropriate health checks.
“[This] will help children and teenagers have a better understanding of non-communicable diseases and what are the things that can be used to prevent them,” she states.
The Jamaica Moves Initiative is currently being piloted in 24 primary and high schools in western Jamaica.
These schools have been engaging in various activities since the start of the programme. One such activity is the Jamaica Moves ambassador initiative where students who demonstrate a willingness to practise a healthy lifestyle and promote same within their schools are selected and charged with passing on the message of healthy lifestyle to their peers.
A Jamaica Moves Ambassador camp was held at the Caribbean Christian Centre for the Deaf in Granville, St. James, where students and teachers from nine of the 10 participating high schools converged for a weekend of activities.
At the camp, messages of empowerment, health and wellness were seen hanging above stairways, plastered on walls, and in walkways. There were frequent bursts of laughter, shouts and the sound of dancing feet echoing in the halls of the campsite.
It was clear that the messages of eating right and exercising were being met with enthusiasm from the high-school students and teachers who were participating in the camp.
The participants were exposed to presentations, where they were taught how to fix their lunches using fruits and vegetables in a creative way to entice the palate and give the body the nutrients it needs. Nutritionists, physical activity instructors, mental health officers and nurses from the Ministry were on hand to participate in this camp.
Senior Health Education Officer within the Ministry of Health, Charmaine Plummer, who was tasked with the responsibility for physical activity sessions at the camp, outlined that the Ministry is trying to encourage more movement among students.
“Research is telling us that the majority of the population is overweight, we are not moving enough, so we want to create some ambassadors who will go back to their schools and promote physical activity inside and outside of the classroom. We are here building up their capacity, informing them of simple things they can do that will not disrupt the classroom environment but will facilitate movement,” Ms. Plummer explains.
Regional Health and Education Promotion Officer at the Western Regional Health Authority (WHRA) Marceleen Wheatle, shares that she was satisfied that the camp met its objectives.
“The students really [had] a wonderful experience while participating in key components of the physical activity that was planned. We used a lot of games, and we were able to get the key messages out about healthy eating, and as a result of this, a wonderful experience was had by all,” Mrs. Wheatle says.
The three-day residential camp, which was also held in other regions, consisted of half-hour-long sessions, with the main objective being to encourage healthy lifestyle choices through songs, games, and competitions that taught students how to incorporate physical activity into regular school tasks.
Meanwhile, the participating students lauded the initiative, vowing to spread the message of health and wellness when they return to their respective schools.
Sixth-form student at the Petersfield High School in Westmoreland, Marcus Gordon, shares that he gleaned a wealth of knowledge from the camp.
“I learned so much from this camp. For example, I had no idea about the method used to check for prostate cancer. I will definitely be taking what I learned here to my friends at school, so I can implore them to live a healthier lifestyle,” he said.
Grade-11 student of Ruseas High School, Marva Holness, shared similar sentiments, stating that the camp was a great experience.
“I have learned about NCDs such as diabetes, hypertension and many others. Useful information that was shared could be used in schools, clinics and in our communities and even our homes,” she expressed.
Teachers from participating schools also enjoyed the experience, promising that they, too, will be spreading the messages of health and wellness at their schools.
Teacher at the Troy High School in Trelawny, Nyoka Sewell-Powell, heaped praises on the initiative.
“I was expecting fun, fellowship and health information, and the camp really delivered. Our students were excited to be at the camp. I am taking back a whole lot of information, and I am sure the children will be as well,” she states.
For his part, Teacher at Herbert Morrison Technical High in St. James, Headley Brown, notes that “the learning experience was eye-opening, I will most definitely share what I have learned”.
Some 72 students and 19 teachers participated in the camp. In addition, similar camps will be held with student ambassadors from the pilot primary schools at later dates.