Observing Caribbean Wellness Day 2014

Website-Sports-Nutrition-Apple-and-WeightSaturday 13 September 2014 is officially Caribbean Wellness Day. It is supposed to be an important day in the lives of the peoples of the region but is it really?
Some may recall that it was in the latter part of 2007 that at a meeting of the CARICOM this country’s Prime Minister launched what was perceived then as a novel idea, the concept of a Wellness Revolution.
Of course, the Prime Minister is given to creative phrases so the concept of a Wellness Revolution would have been an ideal one for him to throw at his Caribbean colleagues.
Importantly, the time of the conceptualisation of a Wellness Revolution coincided with increased concern by CARICOM member states of the burden placed on their respective economies by the incidence of non communicable diseases (NCD) and chronic non communicable diseases (CNCD).
As the Caribbean’s politicians are so often wont to do, the issue of addressing in an appropriate manner the incidence of NCDs and CNCDs in the region was almost a knee-jerk reaction. The situation has already escalated to a point that is considered critical even as it is politically pathetic.
For decades the governments of this Caribbean gave the impression that they were serious about development. Development is about people. It is about meeting their fundamental needs – food, clothing, shelter, education and health. Unfortunately there has been much more by way of talk than action in this regard so much so that the evidence stands as a stinging indictment on us all.
CARICOM itself in its documentation notes, According to the Pan American Health Organization, the member states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have the highest prevalence of chronic non communicable diseases (CNCDs) in the Americas. This is an unfortunate statistic.
The fact is that we have watched the increase in hypertension, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and of course obesity and did nothing. Perhaps we considered these as lifestyles associated with improved economic circumstance so often confused with genuine development.
Now we are all so very busy trying to play catch up in an effort to stem the tide of early death amongst our youths.
Here in St Vincent and the Grenadines we have watched an amazing growth in deaths from NCDs and CNCDs and have now begun to lament the evidence of obesity that surrounds us.
Physical Activity
Physical activity is an important aspect of life.
If we are serious about wellness then it is critical that we pay due attention to the level of physical activity engaged in by the various segments of our population, from childhood.
Time and again we have stressed here that our government seems to think physical activity as sport and therefore as frivolity. There is no real sense that the administration has even begun to understand, far less take seriously, the business of wellness beyond the sheer politics of such a discourse.
When one looks at some of the ministers of government one is loathe to think that they have an appreciation for the deleterious consequences of NCDs and CNCDs yet they speak ever so eloquently on the subject.
Indeed, when the Prime Minister of this country called for a Wellness Revolution in the Caribbean to wage war against NCDs and CNCDs his own physical structure may well have stood in stark contradiction top what was being promulgated at the level of political discourse. Not much has changed since.
Apart from Douglas Slater, the individuals appointed Ministers of Health in this country in the recent past have not been prime examples of the Wellness Revolution.
We have often boasted of sharing much with Cuba since 2001 but have nonetheless failed to follow that country’s example in respect of wellness.
Physical activity begins with the parent in pregnancy. Exercise is important to a good delivery.
Following birth the parents and the child should engage in frequent bouts of physical activity so that it becomes an integral aspect of their lives going forward.
Frequent engagement in physical activity leads to a healthy lifestyle.
One does not have to become an athlete. One merely has to engage in regular physical activity even of the most basic sort in order to reap the immense benefits that accrue to one’s health.
The problem is that our educational administrators have themselves placed little or no emphasis on physical culture in the education of our students. They have confused physical activity with sport and channelled the less academic oriented towards this form of activity in the hope that they could make something of themselves.
Because of the lack of understanding of the benefits of physical culture to individual well being even those who play sport often disengage themselves from physical activity once they have come to the end of the active sporting careers.
it is therefore not surprising to have immense difficulty recognising some former athletes behind the heavy mid section that characterises them in later life.
People who engage in physical activity as a way of life tend to be comfortable and at peace with themselves. The practice of physical activity allows them to come into closer contact with their inner selves.
All too often we forget that yoga is a physical activity as much as it is mental. The practice of many martial arts programmes are intended to facilitate general fitness that harmonises physical activity with psychological well being and amazing self control. One does not have to become a prize fighter. One need only learn the philosophical and psychological underpinnings associated with the martial arts.
A life of physical activity facilitates general fitness, a critical component of wellness. It also leads to clarity of thought. That is one of the reasons that students are encouraged to be physically active all of the time.
Physical activity also allows for relaxation. One does not have to engage in strenuous physical activity to generate fitness and relaxation. Indeed engagement in strenuous activity over long period could well lead to one’s inability to relax just as much as if one were to devote oneself to continuous academic/intellectual activity.
Engagement in physical activity in groups is also most beneficial from a social standpoint. It engenders communitarianism as people get to know each other better and share ideas about life in general.
The major problem we face in St Vincent and the Grenadines relative to wellness is ignorance in the sense of lack of knowledge and understanding of the immense benefits of physical activity.
It does not appear that many Vincentians actually believe that NCDs and CNCDs can be fought by physical activity. Perhaps it all seems too simplistic to accept.
Perhaps it is the reason that Caribbean Wellness Day really does not mean much in our society. Indeed it is like CARICOM Day that passes by each year with hardly a whimper beyond the fact that the CARICOM Secretariat pens yet another piece to add to its rich archive of documentation to show that it still exists.
Facilities etc.
It was not too long ago that some people who frequently used inside Arnos Vale Playing Field to exercise on afternoons were unceremoniously chased out of the arena. On one occasion they were told that walking inside the arena would destroy the grass and somehow prevent the facility from being the picture that it should be for the once a year possible international cricket match.
On another occasion they were prevented from walking up and down the steps of one of the stands because they would destroy them too.
It appeared that the custodians of the prestigious Arnos Vales did not take the time to engage in the understanding of what the individuals were trying to do. A better approach would have allowed for a full engagement of the persons trying to get fit and maintain wellness in developing some part of the Arnos Vale Sports Complex for the precise purpose that they were seeking to achieve.
In this country, as we join the rest of the Caribbean in observing Caribbean Wellness Day, it is important to take stock.
What have we done since promulgating the Wellness Revolution, to ensure that we have a plan to educate our people about the role of physical activity in facilitating wellness?
How have we been able to bring together the Ministry of Health and Wellness, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Sport and the Ministry of Agriculture to harmonise efforts aimed at combating in an efficient manner the incidence of NCDs and CNCDs?
Where are the programmes?
At present there is little by way of coordination and cooperation in respect of the fight that we cannot afford to lose.
Where are the facilities for our people to use for physical activity as a community?
The acceptance of a national sport policy by the government of the day is one thing. The implementation of that same policy is another.
It is very easy to stand up at the level of CARICOM and sound innovative by proposing the need for a Wellness Revolution.
The old people say the proof of the pudding is in the eating.
We are yet to convince ourselves that we are serious about wellness even in the face of the statistics that show how little we are prepared for the fight against NCDs and CNCDs.
Time is really not on our side.
Too many children are obese at a very early age. Parents who are themselves obese and at risk do little to sway their children away from a lifestyle similar to their own and the consequences that are likely to accrue therefrom. Thereby hangs a tale.
Surely as Vincentians we can and must do better.