BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Sept. 24, 2015–On September 24, the Ministry of Health, PAHO and other partners commemorated Caribbean Health & Wellness Week by having a Health & Wellness Open Day, at the Battlefield Park under the theme “Healthy Living, Healthy Aging.” Present at the event were the Belize Cancer Society, the Diabetes Association, the Kidney Association, Belize Wellness Institute, Cayo Healthy Living, Vega Bites and several fruit vendors. In all there were a total of 22 booths.
Dr. Jorge Palanco of PAHO said that Caribbean Health & Wellness week is observed by all CARICOM countries, and that it was birthed in 2007 out of a summit of the CARICOM Heads of Government held in Trinidad & Tobago. There was a need to address non-communicable disease by all governments of the region and to review policies, and so it was decided that observing a health and wellness week throughout the Caribbean would be a step in the right direction, said Polanco. He added that they issued a declaration to this effect and it was implemented in 2008.
The Ministry of Health wants people to be mindful that prevention is better than cure, and wants people to be responsible for their health by developing healthy habits, said Peter Allen, CEO of the Ministry of Healthy. Allen said, “One of the things with health systems, of course, is that the Ministry of Health is forced to spend most of our budget on treating illness; that is understandable, but what we would really like to do is to encourage people to focus on staying well.” Also at the event was the Belize City Council, which is an important stakeholder in the health affairs. Allen explained that municipalities have an important role to play because they have the ability to build amenities and create community programs geared toward promoting opportunities for people to make health choices, the easy choice.
Arlette Sheppard, Health Educator of the Ministry of Health, said that they have passed the stage of creating awareness. Sheppard said, “People are aware that eating non-nutritious foods, not exercising, smoking, and excessive drinking can lead to non-communicable disease.” She continued, “Now what we need to do is make sure, we change behavior.” She added that in order to do that, they need a different strategy and it was with that objective in mind that they approached the Open-Day.
Sheppard said that they had samples of nutritious, affordable food on hand that people could sample and incorporate into their diet and she pointed out that one of the non-communicable diseases that affects many Belizeans is diabetes.
“It is estimated that 15.9% of the adult population in Belize is living with diabetes and there are some who don’t know that they have the disease, hence the reason it is called a silent killer”, said Anthony Castillo, president of the Diabetes Association. Castillo recommends that people get regular check-ups, eat a balance diet and exercise regularly.
Events will continue to be held countrywide as a part of the Health & Wellness week which runs from September 22 to September 26, said Sheppard. These events will be conducted by HECOPAB (Health Education & Community Participation Bureau), which is the health promotion arm of the Ministry of Health.