Address by the Minister of Health on the occasion of Caribbean Wellness Day

by: - September 12, 2020
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This year Dominica along with the rest of the Caribbean Region will be celebrating the thirteenth Caribbean Wellness Day (CWD) on Saturday, September 12, 2020, under the theme “Power through Collective Action-Stronger Together 2020”.

Over the last twelve (12) years, the overall theme for Caribbean Wellness Day was ‘Love that Body’ with a focus on preventing and controlling Non-Communicable Diseases throughout the life course. After consultations with key partners, the region continues with the life course approach but extends it to include a ‘whole of society’ engagement for the next five (5) years – 2020-2024.

After much consideration, the region decided on a new overall theme, ‘Power through Collective Action’, this will be the theme for Caribbean Wellness Day for the next five (5) years, with the sub-theme ‘Stronger Together 2020’.

In a release to the media, Honourable Minister of Health, Wellness and New Health Investment, Dr. Irving McIntrye said, “Caribbean Wellness Day celebration reminds us that together we are in the fight to reduce the prevalence of Non-Communicable Diseases in Dominica and the wider Caribbean, in order to make a reality of the declaration, Uniting to Stop the Spread of Chronic Non-Communicable Disease, which was signed by all heads of government at the CARICOM Heads of Government summit in September 2007.”

This annual event is geared at increasing awareness and promoting activities to address the epidemic of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which continue to affect the health, economy, and development of our nation and whole of society.

“We are all familiar with the fact that Dominica, like all the other regional and international countries, is faced with the challenge of dealing with Non-Communicable Diseases,” McIntyre said in the press release. “These diseases which include diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and mental disorders are now the leading causes of mortality and morbidity in the country.”

“These conditions cause a considerable impact on individuals and families, but also have major implications on the delivery of health services, the workforce and the economic standing of our nation as a whole. In the national context, Non-Communicable Diseases have surpassed communicable diseases as Dominica’s dominant health concern,” he said.

McIntyre added, “Factors such as obesity, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, smoking, exposure to second-hand smoke, the harmful use of alcohol, and poor management of stress are some of the main risk factors that contribute to these diseases.”

This year’s theme “Power through Collective Action’-Stronger Together 2020” focuses on raising awareness about mental illness and mental health, addressing stigma and discrimination (especially towards frontline essential and/or health care workers), and promoting coping strategies aimed at reducing stress, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic.

Mental health, as defined by the World Health Organization, is a “state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”. Mental disorders and psychoactive substance-related disorders are highly prevalent throughout the world and are major contributors to morbidity, disability, and premature mortality.

The stigma, social exclusion, and discrimination that occur around people with mental disorders compound the situation, increasing the risk for other diseases and gaps in seeking help and contributing to unintentional and intentional injury.

Not only does this impact the general public but health professionals and other front line workers face stressful situations every day. During this COVID-19 pandemic, this is especially true. The demand of this crisis requires support and stress management that will help safeguard mental and physical health.

Fear, worry, and stress are normal responses during times when we are faced with uncertainty or the unknown. It is normal and understandable that people are experiencing these feelings in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

McIntyre also says in the release, the Ministry of Health, Wellness, and New Health Investment continues to embark on health education in relation to stress management and promotion of chronic disease management programs as well as COVID-19.

“The Ministry continues to engage and work with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), faith-based organizations, business entities, and all seven health districts in the fight against NCDs. This allows the ministry to mobilize and strengthen public, private, and civil society partnerships for NCDs.”

In keeping with efforts towards a country free of the avoidable burden of non-communicable diseases, the Ministry of Health, Wellness and New Health Investment has adopted Caribbean Wellness Month in September, which has become a best practice in Dominica for promoting healthy lifestyles through physical activities and healthy diet and stress management.

To promote activities in support of health and wellness and motivate residents to develop good health practices, this year’s activities will comprise of a ZOOM Yoga Event open to the public on Saturday, September 12, 2020, and a Panel Discussion raising awareness on mental health and other activities by our key stakeholders.

“The year 2020 has proven to be a challenging year for all of us, therefore, the Ministry of Health, Wellness and New Health Investment, and by extension, the Government of Dominica, takes this opportunity to encourage each Dominican to make your health your priority,” the release says.

“Engage in physical activity, and healthy coping mechanisms to manage stress as we continue our fight against non-communicable diseases.”