Nevis Health Minister’s address for Caribbean Wellness Day 2014

MarkBrantley-3NIA Charlestown Nevis — The following is an address delivered by Hon. Mark Brantley, Minister of Health in the Nevis Island Administration (NIA) on September 12, 2014, on the occasion of Caribbean Wellness Day 2014 celebrated onSeptember 13, 2014.

Caribbean Wellness Day is commemorated annually on the secondSaturday in September. This year’s commemoration will fall on the 13th of September and will be held under the slogan “The Heart of a Productive Workforce is a Healthy Workforce.”

This slogan for 2014 is part of a wider focus by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) which highlights the health of adults as key to preserving the workforce for national and regional development.

As a CARICOM member state, St. Kitts/Nevis has solidified its commitment to this effort by being a signatory to the Port of Spain Declaration in 2007, through which CARICOM heads of government committed to increasing awareness and promoting activities, to address the epidemic of non-communicable diseases (NCD’s) which continue to severely impact the health, economy and development of the Caribbean region.

At the regional level NCD’s represent the greatest burden of disease and account for 70 per cent of years of life lost, as compared to the global average which is less than 50 percent.

At the local level, the burden of disease is no different, with NCD’s such as diabetes, hypertension and cancer accounting for three of the top five causes of death for the last five consecutive years.

We as the Nevis Island Administration are ever cognizant that a healthy nation is a wealthy nation and thus welcome this opportunity to heighten the focus on health promotion activities such as these.

These diseases not only affect the health of individuals but represent a growing portion of health spending and impose a large economic burden at the societal, community and household level. As such, over the last few years, we have hosted a month of activities to commemorate the agenda of the Port of Spain Declaration.

This year will be no different, as we, along with the newly appointed National Alliance for Health Actions (NAHA), a body that provides strategic leadership and national coordination for the prevention and control of NCD’s work with various local, regional and international partners including employers and employees, to promote healthy lifestyle practices.

These partnerships will manifest in the creation of advocacy, as well as the further development of initiatives as encouraged by CARPHA including those related to policy, supportive environments, building personal health skills, empowering communities and building alliances.

By way of policy development, the Ministries of Health in both St. Kitts and Nevis have already identified the need for the development of healthy workplace policies and in collaboration with other ministerial partners and PAHO, will soon mobilize plans to develop an occupational health and safety policy.

A policy on HIV/AIDS and NCD’s is already in existence and is anticipated to take effect shortly with support from a number of workplaces in the Federation.

These initiatives serve as a benchmark that workplaces can build on, as they relate to the development of further policies. The building of supportive environments through the establishment of exercise classes, as well as health education sessions at the workplace that discuss personal responsibility, are some of the opportunities for workplaces to encourage healthy lifestyle practices.

Reorienting services available to employees to include onsite health screening services are also initiatives that encourage workers to build personal health skills. These skills can in turn empower communities, as workplaces forge partnerships with communities and vice versa to develop healthy lifestyle initiatives.

These aforementioned initiatives also have spin off effects for workers who are also involved in community and faith based groups, as the knowledge imparted at the workplace can be taken to sub-populations including youth, thus allowing for the continuous promotion of health messages and the building of critical alliances.

We take the opportunity to applaud those workplaces that have already established initiatives such as walking groups, sporting activities and health education sessions. We also encourage other business entities to become active in this area and refer you to the Public Health Department if you require assistance in this area.

In closing, I once again reiterate the slogan for this year’s Caribbean Wellness Day “The Heart of a Productive Workforce is a Healthy Workforce.” I implore you to make at least one healthy lifestyle change during the month of September as recommended by CARPHA
· Walk 30 minutes a day; it can halve your risk of heart attack
· Reduce your salt intake to reduce your risk of hypertension
· Eat five servings of fruit and vegetables each day to reduce your risk of hypertension, heart disease and cancer
· Do not smoke- you can reduce your risk of cancer and wrinkles and save money
· Reduce your alcohol consumption
· Stay on your medications if you have high blood pressure or diabetes, to avoid complications like heart attacks, stroke, and kidney failure

The Ministry of Health will continue to promote these healthy lifestyles through its various programmes including but not limited to, diabetic and hypertensive clinics and Men’s Health Clinics, the latter of which continues to be a best practice in the Caribbean.

I encourage you to join me as well as my Cabinet colleagues at the Caribbean Wellness Day Walk on the 13th of September commencing at 6 a.m. at the Villa Grounds as we kick off the first of several activities for Wellness Month.

Take a step towards safeguarding your health as we in Nevis do our part to realize the preservation of the workforce for national and regional development.

Thank you and may God richly bless you as we all strive for better health and longer lives in this the country we love.

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