The following is a World Health Day message from Minister of Health Gilbert McLean
Few amongst us escaped hardship over the past few months, especially while we lacked running water and electricity, turning everyday activities into major challenges.
Yet, while times were tough, life didn’t standstill; mothers still had babies and also fed and clothed their families at a time when our children felt especially vulnerable because they faced so many frightening and unusual occurrences.
For this reason, I believe the theme for this year’s World Health Day today – ‘Make every mother and child count’ – could not be more appropriate for the Cayman Islands.
If one should take away our mothers and children, we would be left without a real community, for it is they who are the real wealth of our societies. When they suffer, we all do, for without a mother’s productive contribution to humankind, the home, workforce, and economy, we lack a centre. A mother’s wellbeing impacts directly on the welfare of her children, and without strong, healthy and literate youngsters, no nation can hope to progress.
On the other hand, societies that care for their mothers and children, that afford them a special place in their communities, reap the benefits at every level-and Cayman’s history stands as testimony to this. It was our women and children who formed the backbone of our country during the era when our men had little choice but to go to sea. It was the mothers and children who stayed behind to keep the home fires burning. It was our women who were resourceful and strong, even as they ensured a level of care that became the foundation for their children’s growth into successful adults.
Today we boast of good health care, a strong economy and a high standard of living, but had it not been for our women and children who made themselves count, the Cayman Islands would have been a very different place. And, we continue to have reason to be grateful, for even in today’s ‘progressive’ world, statistics continue to appall: Every minute, 20 children under the age of five die, and every day 1,400 women die from complications in pregnancy and childbirth across the globe. In Cayman, we must be thankful for our good fortune-but we must also be mindful that mothers and children require special care.
In this regard, I can proudly say that the Ministry and the Department of Public Health is playing its part in keeping our mothers and children healthy:
We declared March Wellness Month and had a team from the Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health visit the Islands to offer teachers and parent’s advice on how to deal with stress and trauma in children;
We launched the community support programme ‘Neighbours Helping Neighbours’ so that our mothers don’t have to carry their burdens alone;
Last month was Honouring Women Month, and the Women’s Resource Centre put on a range of activities focusing on the needs of women who often neglect their own personal needs to serve others.
Public Health had a special health day for women, offering free screenings for breast and cervical cancers, blood pressure and blood sugar checks, and body mass index calculations.
Mothers and mothers-to-be have access to world-class care and advice through the Women’s Health Centre at the Health Services Authority.
Our children receive a good education and also have access to good health care.
Although I believe we have risen to the challenge so far, we can never do too much in the effort to care for our women and children. Health is not just about curing disease or preventing death; it is also about mental and spiritual wellness, about giving women and children a safe, secure and loving environment in which they can prosper.
I therefore urge everyone to take some time this World Health Day to consider how you can better make the women and children in your life count today.