Gleaner Honour Awards | For Health and Wellness: Jamaica Moves - Moving towards better health
Jamaica Moves started as a concept. At the core of the plan is the education, engagement and the building of supportive environments in parishes across Jamaica, with hopes of reducing non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and chronic lung disease, by 25 per cent by the year 2025. Since its official launch in April last year, this concept has grown, spreading far and wide, becoming the country's first-ever coordinated national response to the increased incidences of NCDs. Backed by data from the World Health Organization (WHO), which showed that NCDs are collectively responsible for almost 70 per cent of all deaths worldwide, Jamaica Moves was conceptualised by the Ministry of Health.
"The basic concept was to find a way to get Jamaicans to be more aware of their health status by getting periodic physical check-ups by their doctors and so be in a position to prevent or to reduce their risk of an NCD. At the same time, to promote dietary practices that were in keeping with a healthy lifestyle, which included, but was not limited to, eating a balanced meal. Additionally, and very important, to engage in at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day," said Minister of Health Dr Chris Tufton.
Changing the 'unhealthy' culture
The epidemic of NCDs poses devastating health consequences for individuals, families and communities, and threatens to overwhelm the Jamaican health system. The socio-economic costs associated with NCDs make the prevention and control of these diseases a major development imperative for present day. The manifestation of this led to the creation of a brand, and positioning this brand in the minds of Jamaicans at all segments of the society, repeatedly conveying the core message.
"Ultimately, it is about changing culture and behaviour. It is a long-term effort and so we don't claim that the programme is an overwhelming success in less than a year of its existence. But, we do believe it is a good start and from the feedback on the ground and the support we've gotten from corporate Jamaica, it is clear that we have made an impact. We will continue to push that, too, in order to move the process forward," Tufton noted.
Following the launch of the programme, it featured a Get Moving Challenge with 14 prominent members of the private and public sectors, challenging them to lead by example and commit to 10,000 documented steps per day over four weeks. Some of these challengers were Tiffany Wong, special projects manager in the office of the chairman at National Baking Company; Krystal Tomlinson, communications consultant; Minister of Health
Dr Chris Tufton, The Gleaner's Lifestyle Editor Nashauna Lalah; dancehall duo RDX; general manager of television services at TVJ, Claire Grant; and members of parliament Julian Robinson and Alando Terrelonge.
When the curtain came down on the challenge, Tiffany Wong emerged the overall winner, amassing 473,056 steps.
Successful road tours
The Get Moving Challenge paved the way for a series of road tours which kicked off in the county of Cornwall and has so far made stops in Trelawny, St James, Hanover, Westmoreland, Manchester, St Elizabeth and Clarendon with in excess of 5,000 individuals attending. Each road tour featured health education sessions, covering topics such as healthy eating, mental health, HIV prevention and oral health. Screening activities, inclusive of checks on blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, body mass index, waist circumference and haemoglobin count, were facilitated by the National Health Fund (NHF) and the parish health teams.
Following the screening, attendees were engaged in outdoor workout activities. Health screening results from some of the parish road tours revealed that in St Elizabeth, Clarendon, Manchester, Hanover, Trelawny and St James, of the 527 tested for blood cholesterol, 183 returned abnormal. Of the 728 tested for blood pressure 282 were at an uncontrolled stage. Additionally, in St Elizabeth, Manchester and Clarendon, 108 individuals were diagnosed as being overweight and 127 diagnosed with obesity. Over 127 of the those screened were referred to health centres and hospitals for treatment and further assessment.
"The intention over the next two to three years is to bring Jamaica Moves throughout the country in very specific and targeted way, hopefully stemming the outbreak and the crises of lifestyle diseases that we are now confronting," Tufton said.