The inaugural staging of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority’s (RADA) Wellness Day 2012, which featured free eye tests, cholesterol and blood pressure checks, took place on April 11 on the lawns of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries offices, in Kingston.
The event was intended to promote wellness and healthy lifestyle practices among the nation’s citizenry, and specifically targeted RADA staff as well as the employees of neighbouring institutions.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Chief Executive Officer of RADA, Al Powell, said the main objective of Wellness Day 2012 was to raise the awareness of, and provide information about various contemporary health topics, including HIV/AIDS, diet related conditions, stress management and other health and lifestyle issues.
“RADA recognises that there is a risk of the workplace becoming a source of stress, discontent and burn out. This wellness day seeks to build support mechanisms, increased staff moral and strengthen work relationships,” he said.
Mr. Powell said the Authority is also of the belief that companies and institutions need to encourage health among their employees.
Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Hon. Roger Clarke, for his part, commended the organisers for putting on the event and for “taking the initiative to highlight the importance of wellness in terms of production."
“The prevalence of lifestyle diseases and the impact on the Jamaican workforce behove us to take note and begin to adhere to the principles of wellness and healthy living, so that service delivery cannot be compromised,” he said.
Mr. Clarke noted that initiatives, such as the ‘Eat Jamaican’ campaign and introducing fruit juices instead of bag juice into the School Feeding Programme are geared to achieving those goals of healthy living, adding that backyard gardening is also an area of emphasis where persons can begin to grow vegetables and other healthy foods at home.
“RADA and in particular, this Ministry, support the fact that good nutrition is the cornerstone of healthy living. RADA accepts its role in ensuring the production of good quality, safe foods produced in quantities which will make them affordable and accessible to the most vulnerable of our population,” he added.
Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, also endorsed the event, noting that healthy living and wellness are central to the future viability of the nation and the well-being of all Jamaicans.
“Healthy living, including healthy food and nutrition, avoidance of alcohol and tobacco, regular exercise and relaxation are central to achieving health and assisting in reducing the prevalence of lifestyle diseases, such as diabetes, stroke and hypertension. These avoidable illnesses take a heavy toll on our limited health resources,” he said in a message read by Medical Epidemiologist in the Health Ministry, Dr. Thamu Davidson.
In his remarks, Permanent Secretary in the Agriculture Ministry, Donovan Stanberry, welcomed the initiative, noting that the Ministry normally stages a wellness function every year and suggested that perhaps both efforts could be combined, starting next year, to stage one event.
Member of Parliament for Eastern St. Andrew, Andre Hylton, who said he believed in eating right, also expressed support for the effort.
Staged under the theme: ‘A Healthy Lifestyle our Aim…Wellness Your Gain’, the event is slated to be an annual activity and was designed as part of the nation’s 50th anniversary celebrations.
Other free health screenings that were offered during the event, included blood sugar tests, Body Mass Index (BMI) measurements, HIV screening and electrocardiogram (ECG) tests. The day’s activities also featured food and back yard gardening demonstrations, wellness competitions, mobile dental services and physical work outs supervised by a certified personal trainer.
RADA partnered with the Heart Foundation of Jamaica, the Ministry of Health, the Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute (CFNI), the Lions Clubs of Kingston and St. Andrew, the Jamaica Organic Agriculture Movement, the University of Technology, Dynasty Water Works, Jamaica Broilers, Bureau of Standards and the National Health Fund to carry out the screenings.
Presentations were also made by the CFNI on Food and Nutrition Security, while the Nutrition Unit in the Ministry of Health presented on Nutrition and Healthy Lifestyles.
By Alecia Smith-Edwards, JIS Reporter