MONTEGO BAY — The National Health Fund (NHF) is on an islandwide crusade to take its health information and prevention activities to communities across Jamaica.
This forms part of the Fund's mandate to promote the importance of a healthy lifestyle in the prevention and management of chronic illnesses, and for persons to become more proactive in taking responsibility for their health.
For some years now, the Fund has been scheduling community health days in all parishes, to reach out to citizens, especially those in rural areas who are not able to access health services due to their economic situation, to provide them with free tests for blood pressure, blood cholesterol and blood sugar, as well as screening for hearing and vision problems, ECG, pap smear and mammograms, among others.
According to Health Promotions Coordinator at the NHF, Rose Marie Stewart, since the start of the year, several communities have been visited, with over 2,000 persons attended to by NHF health personnel, the National Heart Foundation and the Diabetic Association of Jamaica.
“We are encouraging people to go to the doctor for regular check-ups, as they need to know their status…Most times when people find out, is when the situation has become chronic, and they need medication. So we go into communities and encourage persons to do the checks, so they will know exactly what to do from there,” Ms. Stewart told JIS News.
She said that the NHF encourages people to become more proactive, and to understand that their health is their responsibility.
“We are in the process of sponsoring a lot of road races now for people to be active when it comes on to their health. Our hope is that no one will ever have the need for an NHF Card as a result of a chronic illness. We want people to be healthy,” she told JIS News.
One of the latest beneficiaries of Community Health Days is Chatham, St. James, where approximately 200 persons participated. It was staged by the NHF in collaboration with the Heart Foundation of Jamaica (HFJ).
The participants benefited from free health checks, which they otherwise would not have had the opportunity of accessing, thus enabling them to take greater responsibility for their health.
The services offered included tests for blood pressure, blood cholesterol, blood sugar, as well as screening for vision problems, echocardiograph (ECG) tests for the heart and the A-one-C test which checks what the blood sugar level has been over the past three months. Persons were also enrolled for the NHF and Jamaica Drug for the Elderly (JADEP) Health Cards and other benefits.
Health Promotions Coordinator at the NHF, Sophia Mitchell, told JIS News that each year a schedule is prepared for various areas, with an objective of covering the entire island, giving citizens health checks and tests, and making health opportunities more accessible to them.
“For each schedule, we look at areas we can target and areas that we have not been to the previous year, and we just choose a community. We tend to use mostly churches, as these are common grounds,” she said.
She observed that the majority of participants were persons over 40 years old, and lamented the noticeable absence of young people, who should be more proactive about their health and wellness.
This view was shared by Medical Technologist at the Heart Foundation of Jamaica, Nakheda Campbell-Brice, who administered the ECG heart tests.
“It seems that they are holding on to the opinion that illnesses are for persons in their old age stages of life. I want to encourage all young persons, who are seemingly young and strong, to visit the doctor and check on their health, as it is only wise to know their status,” Mrs. Campbell-Brice told JIS News.
Community member, Winston Dalley, participated in the Community Health Day, and was engaged in a number of tests. He told JIS News that he was pleased to see so many community persons attending the event, which demonstrated their interest in their lifestyle and future health status.
“I am truly very happy for this treatment of members of the community… people will now be able to budget a little better in their health care and lifestyle. I am glad this is happening in this community today, right at the church where I belong,” Mr. Dalley told JIS News.
Another beneficiary, Lesma Rose, of the Goodwill House Craft Training Centre, told JIS News that the event was very timely and would increase citizens’ awareness of issues relating to their health.
Executive member of the Bethtephil Baptist Church Mrs. Maxine Blake, expressed satisfaction at the event being taken to rural Chatham, and so many residents benefiting from the professional health services provided, at no cost to them.
By GLENIS ROSE, JIS Reporter