Sun | May 22, 2022

Tufton: Be a Santa for somebody

Published:Friday | November 13, 2020 | 12:06 AMChristopher Serju/Senior Gleaner Writer
Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton (left) checks out some of the sanitisers and face masks and other items that will go into care packages for the public during Wednesday’s forum with youth leaders in Kingston, held at The Source, Mave
Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton (left) checks out some of the sanitisers and face masks and other items that will go into care packages for the public during Wednesday’s forum with youth leaders in Kingston, held at The Source, Maverley Flowers Park, St Andrew. Also sharing in the occasion are Senior Public Health Nurse Charmaine Vassell-Shettlewood, president of the Kingston and St Andrew parish Youth Council and Project manager for Voices for Jamaica Foundation, and Alecia Jones.

As Jamaicans from all age groups continue to struggle to cope with the restrictions on movements and public gatherings, the Ministry of Health and Wellness has recognised that there could be some fallout in terms of how individuals, especially those living alone, are able to cope with this situation.

It is for this reason that it is in the process of recruiting and empowering a cadre of young leaders drawn from youth clubs, police youth clubs and other registered community groups to be deployed across Jamaica as COVID Response Ambassadors.

“The objective of this outreach is to get young people like yourselves to be involved in COVID-19 response in carrying the message of social distancing, wearing the mask, but also more important, to deal with the side effects of COVID. To use the outreach that you currently are involved in and on top of that, that involves COVID messaging,” he told Wednesday’s launch at The Source, Flowers Garden in Maverley, St Andrew.

Dr Tufton explained that the side effects of the restrictions dictated by the COVID-19 response could sometimes have devastating consequences as the virus itself.

“An old man in his house who can’t go outside and is afraid and falls into depression, the depression will kill him too. So part of public health’s recognition is that while we prescribe for COVID in a way that seeks to address you not getting the virus, we also have to recognise that that prescription has side effects that could be as lethal as the virus itself.”

“So we have to address the side effects, too, and mental health is a big side effect, particularly among certain segments of the population, the very young and the older population. So you as youth leaders in Kingston and St Andrew who are in community-based organisations who are not as vulnerable to the virus, but can transmit it to your older population, must also engage in a more activist mode so that the packages that you give out – COVID messaging must be a part of that.”

The initiative will also promote the making and distribution of masks to senior citizens, which will present opportunities for the ambassadors to engage them, which Dr Tufton is encouraging.

“Go ask Mass Joe how him feeling, if him need any extra help. Go help him pick up his prescription, sit down and talk with him for an hour, or the young people who not going to school get two or three of them on veranda and helping them with them homework, giving them an opportunity to interact and interface.”

MORE URGENCY

The health minister said that with the country going into the festive season, there was heightened need for people to socialise, hence the role of the COVID Response Ambassadors would take on more urgency.

“We going into a very serious time called Christmas, where you are going you to be faced with an unusual Christmas which requires less large festivities and more quiet family time, and where there is no family, it becomes much lonelier, particularly at this time of the year. So we want to develop a programme where you can be a Santa for someone who is lonely this year. It would be nice to see young people going out and visiting people during this season and just creating a little cheer.”

The youth ambassadors will be drawn from all parishes and will receive training from the Ministry of Health and Wellness before being deployed.

“We not asking you be doctors or nurses, we just asking you be good citizens who can do some best-practice outreach, and that means the mask distribution and wearing and social distance. You have the power to mobilise your community at the base level which we can’t even try to do. You carry more respect and more influence, so this is a critical part of the COVID response. COVID is not just about clinical science, it is also about behavioural science, so we have to reach out with the behavioural sciences also.”

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com