STATEMENT TO MARK CARIBBEAN WELLNESS DAY / CARIBBEAN WELLNESS WEEK

Honourable Molwyn M. Joseph

Minister of Health, Wellness and the Environment

It is with a sense of urgency that on this, the 11th observance of Caribbean Wellness Day, I once again call upon you to ponder on the devastating effects that non-communicable diseases – namely cancer, stroke, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension - and obesity are having on our population.

These chronic diseases are fueled by risk factors such as unhealthy diets, physical inactivity, tobacco use, and alcohol abuse. Seven of every ten deaths in Antigua and Barbuda, and in the wider Caribbean, are attributable to non-communicable diseases. Many of these deaths are preventable. These NCDs threaten not only good health and life but also undermine our work productivity, and by extension, our economic growth and national development.

It was to counter such a threat that in September of 2007, the CARICOM Heads of Government, in the historic Port-of-Spain Declaration on Chronic Diseases, established Caribbean Wellness Day. Inaugurated in 2008, it has become an annual event, celebrated on the second Saturday of September.

Caribbean Wellness Day seeks to (1) increase awareness of the health and economic burdens of non-communicable diseases in the Caribbean, (2) to mobilize and strengthen public, private and civil society partnerships to confront and to reduce and control NCDs and (3) to promote multi-country, multi-sectoral activities in support of wellness and showcase national and community level activities in support of healthy living and to encourage citizens to develop good health practices.

This September, Caribbean Wellness Day 2018 is being celebrated under the theme, Healthy Communities: Preserving the Workforce. Individuals are being urged to ‘Be Healthy, Stay Healthy, It’s Your Job.’

This coming week, as we focus on our workplaces, we encourage employers and employees to seek common ground in order to provide the space for wellness to flourish, be it in the form of regular physical exercises, support for breastfeeding mothers and the implementation of healthy nutrition practices.

This coming week, as we focus on our workplaces, we encourage employers and employees to seek common ground in order to provide the space for wellness to flourish, be it in the form of regular physical exercises, support for breastfeeding mothers and the implementation of healthy nutrition practices.

Developing a culture of wellness is a priority in Antigua and Barbuda and it is not by chance that the Wellness portfolio was added to the Ministry of Health and the Environment. We wanted to emphasize the importance of wellness, and the urgent necessity, not only to institute measures to prevent illnesses and diseases but even more importantly, to get people involved in the management of their own health, and to get them to make wiser decisions and to make changes to their current lifestyles.

We can neutralize the evils of unhealthy diets, physical inactivity, tobacco use, and alcohol abuse and thus reduce the rate of NCDs in our nation. The Government of Antigua and Barbuda has made a giant step towards this end by the passage of the Tobacco Control Act. Next, we intend to increase our efforts to reduce the rate of obesity, especially among our children, by regulating sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs).

Physical activity is a major weapon in the fight against obesity and in the quest for wellness. A recent World Health Organization publication states that “regular physical activity is proven to help prevent and treat non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and breast, and colon cancer. It also helps to prevent hypertension, overweight and obesity and can improve mental health, quality of life and well-being.”

he Ministry of Health, Wellness & the Environment notes with great satisfaction the existence of many exercise clubs, including our very own, as well the numerous charity walks that are held each year in Antigua and Barbuda. We are on the right track. We need now to redouble our efforts and reach out and persuade the unconverted.

Later this month, Antigua and Barbuda, as well as other CARICOM countries, will be represented at the 2018 United Nations High-Level Meeting on NCDs. The CARICOM representatives will also meet separately, in special session in New York. This will give our region another opportunity to refocus our energies and chart a common front in the ongoing battle against non-communicable diseases.

As Caribbean Wellness Day 2018 extends into Wellness Week 2018, we encourage the public to participate in the activities OF the upcoming week…remembering to love your body, to be healthy, and to stay healthy. It’s our job!

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