(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana) The Headquarters of the Caribbean Community, the CARICOM Secretariat on Monday commenced a week of activities to commemorate Caribbean Wellness Day (CWD) 2014 and to sustain the ‘wellness revolution’ that began in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago in September 2007. CWD will be observed on 13 September 2014.
Ambassador Manorma Soeknandan, Deputy Secretary-General of CARICOM, addressing the opening said: “Caribbean people have honoured this day in many ways over the last seven years, from the promotion of fitness events to the use of nutrition demonstrations intended to promote healthy eating.”
“No doubt, this year will have similar activities reflecting the zeal of the Caribbean People to remain healthy,” she stated.
The 2007 Declaration of Port of Spain on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), which provides a roadmap for the Community to pursue a 25% reduction of deaths from NCDs by 2025 – was a watershed moment in public health that started a Wellness Revolution – a term coined by Dr. The Hon. Ralph Gonsalves, St. Vincent and the Grenadines prime minister, after he perused the fifteen-point objectives of the Declaration at the conclusion of the first CARICOM Summit on Health.
Ambassador Manorma Soeknandan noted that the historic summit, “catapulted the Caribbean into the forefront of global advocacy for the reduction of NCDs,” including diabetes, hypertension, stroke, heart disease, obesity and cancer.
The Deputy Secretary-General said the Community’s advocacy spawned the 2011 United Nations Political Declaration of the Control and Prevention of NCDS which has many similarities to the Port of Spain Declaration and has given birth to a global movement aimed at reducing the impact of precursor factors on NCDs.
Caribbean Wellness Day 2014 will be observed under a regional theme, “The heart of a healthy workforce is a productive workforce.” It comes at a time when emphasis is being placed on the reform of CARICOM and generating a skilled base that would guarantee the Region’s competitive edge.
The Community five-year Strategic Plan made the linkage between health and wellness and economic growth by underscoring the critical importance of health in preventing further deterioration in the Region’s human development gains. It drew reference to the existence of several social issues including the continuing prevalence of HIV and NCDs that threaten to erode the gains achieved in human development.
Ambassador Soeknandan noted that though the Region has accomplished much on its public health agenda, there remains more to be done to address two other areas of primary concern for CARICOM Heads of Government: alcohol and tobacco consumption.
“Part of our duty as officials of this Community has to be finding creative ways to bring other Member States to the table of tobacco prevention, supported by the relevant legal frameworks,” she said.
Urging collective action, she stated, “We all have a duty to support the position of the Heads of Government adopted since 2005 on the promotion for responsible alcohol use. This will not only reduce traffic fatalities and injuries but incidence of domestic violence and suicides.”
The CARICOM Secretariat joins the wider Community in giving expression to the regional theme of CWD 2014 through a week of multifaceted activities including a health and wellness exhibition; health eating demonstrations; NCDs risks screening in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, Guyana; and interactive discussions on health and wellness.
Sport activities at the Secretariat, which will culminate with a day of sports on Saturday 13, span the entire week. They have inspired participation by the entire staff which have been divided into four houses to participate in football, cricket, dance aerobics and athletics competitions. Space has also been created for more cognitive-type competitions including scrabble, dominoes, and jig-saw tournaments.
Anguilla, Aruba, Bermuda, Sint Maarten, Montserrat, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago are among several countries in the Region which have planned activities to sustain the regional collective action to control and prevent NCDs.