JIS News

Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, is again warning of the dangers of second hand smoke, especially to children.

The Health Minister, who was addressing a health fair on Saturday (Sept. 8) to mark Caribbean Wellness Day 2012, implored parents to be mindful of smoking around their children as environmental tobacco smoke is just as dangerous as smoking.

He pointed out that six million persons are dying every year from cigarette smoking, while 600,000 persons die every year from being in the presence of smokers.

“I know you love your children, but many persons smoke the cigarette, blow the smoke in the children's face and later on they become more susceptible to conditions related to heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes and so on,” he said, pleading with them to desist from the practice.

Scores of persons were treated to free health checks and engaged in activities promoting healthy lifestyle practices during the Caribbean Wellness Day event, which is observed annually on the second Saturday in September.

It seeks to showcase national and community level activities to promote healthy living and encourage citizens to develop good health practices.

Its observance came out of a landmark summit held in Trinidad and Tobago in September 2007, which saw Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads of Government “uniting to stop the epidemic" of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), or chronic conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes.

Dr. Ferguson, in his address, informed that 56 per cent of deaths in Jamaica are as a result of chronic diseases. He encouraged the audience to lead healthier lifestyles and prevent NCDs by exercising, paying special attention to proper nutrition and avoid tobacco smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.

Director of Health Promotion and Education in the Ministry, Tekese Foga, told JIS News that Caribbean Wellness Day this year, focused on health promotion in schools, and the event highlighted the work of resource persons, who "support key components of a health-promoting school."

A health promoting school has been defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as an institution, which strengthens its capacity as a healthy environment for living, learning and working. As such, it becomes a place where all members of the school community work together to provide students with integrated and positive experiences and a structure, which promotes and protects their health.

The event featured displays highlighting various initiatives schools have been embarking on to improve the health of students. There was a physical activity station and a chill room where adolescents were provided with information about their health and encouraged to ask questions. An edutainment group also interacted with adolescents regarding healthy lifestyle practices.

There was also a nutrition village, which featured the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) as well as the Ministry of Health's Nutrition Department, which addressed the area of healthy eating.

Booths were also set up by the Jamaica 4-H Clubs, Dispute Resolution Foundation, Ministry of National Security, and the Diabetes Association of Jamaica.  There was also an HIV/STI booth. The day ended with a lively concert.

Organised by the Ministry of Health in partnership with the Ministry of Education and the National Health Fund (NHF), the day was observed under the theme: 'Healthy Schools make Healthy Communities that Build Healthy Countries'.