Caribbean Wellness Day was first
celebrated three years ago to promote healthy living and encourage people to
develop good health practices. With the theme ‘love that body’, this day places
emphasis on national and community level activities that aim to improve the
And so, as we celebrate this year’s
Caribbean Wellness Day, it is fitting – and imperative – that we pay attention
to the pending health crisis that faces our region.
Ailments such as hypertension,
ischemic heart disease and stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and
diabetes are the leading causes of premature death in this part of the world.
A staggering two of three deaths
occurring in persons younger than 70 years results from a chronic disease.
Ironically, even as this region has
made great strides in securing better medical care for its citizens, we still
find ourselves facing the highest rates of chronic disease in the Americas. We
have more knowledge and better testing, but we are still witnessing rapidly
increasing chronic illness figures, especially in childhood obesity and
Apart from negatively affecting the
quality of life of sufferers and their families, chronic diseases impose a huge
financial burden on individuals and governments alike. Indeed, according to a
CARICOM estimate, the societal costs of diabetes alone in Latin America and the
Caribbean amounted to some $53 billion in 2000.
But there is good news: While it is
escalating, this chronic disease epidemic is in large part preventable,
particularly if we all make conscious decisions to live better.
In this regard, we are fortunate
here in Cayman to see a growing partnership between the private and public
sector in securing the long-term health of our population. For instance the
free health screenings (for diabetes, hypertension and cholesterol) on offer
this month, compliments of the Heart Health Centre and the Cayman Islands
Health Services Authority.
The Public Health Department will
also continue this month with its health awareness campaign, presenting school
children with fruit and water at school.
Of course governments should
provide good health care and support, but the sobering truth is that we are the
only ones who can thwart this potentially crippling health emergency.
Truly then, the difference does
start at home. It begins with the example we set as parents and it flows from
the simple choices we make in the supermarket and in pursuing our recreational
My hope therefore is that this
Caribbean Wellness Day will inspire you to ‘love that body’ and make at least
one positive change in your life. Without question, living healthily is one of
the best investments you can possibly make for you and your family. So why
Minister of Health