JIS News

Pastor of the East Queen Street Baptist Church, in Kingston, Reverend Dr. Roy Henry, has emphasised the role which churches and other faith-based organisations can play in the reduction and prevention of chronic non-communicable diseases and illnesses in the country.
Addressing a faith-based organisations chronic disease forum, jointly hosted by the Ministry of Health and the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), at The Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston, today (August 27), Dr. Henry cited research which indicated the “disproportionate” impact, which chronic non-communicable diseases have on Caribbean states, primarily affecting marginalised individuals, and resulting in morbidity and mortality in the region.
“Further research shows that heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes, which are leading causes of illnesses, are caused by four modifiable risk factors: tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and harmful use of alcohol,” he said.
“Intermediate risk factors include: overweight, obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Controlling these risk factors could prevent some 80 per cent of all heart attacks, strokes and type 2 diabetes, as well as 40 per cent of cancers,” Dr. Henry added.
Citing additional statistics, the clergyman noted that hypertension is the leading cause of death in the Caribbean and globally, pointing out that excessive usage of additives, such as salt, precipitates this, and also contributes to heart attacks and strokes. Additionally, more than one third of persons with diabetes are unaware of their condition.
To this end, he said the input of churches and faith-based organisations in effectively addressing these developments is “most desirable.” He pointed out that tangible ways in which these stakeholders contribute, include: heightening awareness of the dangers of non-communicable diseases through public education; initiating health fairs and other activities promoting good health practices; organising congregational and community fora; arranging counselling sessions for persons whose conditions are brought on by stress, and who are traumatised or depressed; organising monthly medical and counselling clinics for individuals who may not have the financial means to source these services; and making special provisions within the church’s or organisation’s budget to assist persons in need to fill prescriptions.
“The church or the faith-based organisation should establish a health department to oversee these initiatives to ensure efficiency and effectiveness. The wealth of the nation depends on the health of its people. Diseases can be prevented by a healthy lifestyle. Let us not eat and drink to destroy the body, God’s gift to us, but to have a healthy existence,” Dr. Henry implored.
In his brief remarks, PAHO/World Health Organisation (WHO) representative in Jamaica, Dr. Ernest Pate, said the forum was one of several which the agency has been having with churches and other faith-based organisations in several countries.
“You, as leaders in your community, are listened to. Therefore, when the leaders in the church speak and really address issues of health, we do see that the members of the community do benefit. I think that’s the basis on which we have been working, and this is why we have been forging this partnership with the church and other faith-based organisations. We are quite sure that working in partnership with you, will lead to an improvement and better access to the health care needs of our population,” Dr. Pate said.
Director of Health Promotion in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Eva Lewis-Fuller, pointed to the link between health and spiritual endeavours, and highlighted the timeliness and importance of the workshop.
“Exploring the church’s role, and how we can work together to improve and strengthen health promotion, is really very crucial and important, and represents a change in scene, a change in time and setting,” she said.
Over 70 religious leaders attended the workshop, which was staged as part of the Ministry of Health’s efforts to strengthen the national response to prevent and control chronic diseases and promote healthy lifestyles by engaging faith-based organisations as partners.
The forum is an action item coming out of the Port of Spain Declaration, signed by Caribbean Heads of Government, in Trinidad, in 2007, committing the region to doubling its efforts to fight chronic diseases.

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