Wellness now a major focus of health ministry

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

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The Government is expanding its focus on the physical well-being of Jamaicans as a major plank of what Dr Christopher Tufton said is the Administration's vision and strategic and operational direction for public health.

As such, Tufton, the health minister, yesterday announced that his ministry has been renamed the Ministry of Health and Wellness as “there is the need to address the whole person, through a greater emphasis on wellness”.

Tufton made the announcement in his contribution to the sectoral debate in Parliament, during which he tabled four ministry papers, among them a Green Paper on a National Health Insurance Plan for Jamaica designed to “provide appropriate levels of access, coverage and financial protection to the population”.

Noting that health, as defined by the World Health Organization, is not only the absence of disease and infirmity, but a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, Tufton said that the key dimensions of the wellness approach include “not only the physical, mental, and social, but also the emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, vocational, and spiritual”.

He said that this year the Government, in collaboration with a number of partners, will lead a wellness agenda for Jamaica to include a 'Wellness at Work Programme' that encompasses “workplace employee/employer wellness engagement to encourage healthy consumption habits, physical activity, and periodic health checks; a 'Wellness at School Programme' under which a National School Nutrition Policy is being developed in association with the Ministry of Educationt to guide meal preparation for the country's children; and a home-based 'Wellness Garden' programme to encourage householder engagement and consumption of fresh, healthy food options at home.

This, he said, will be done in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture through Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), the 4H movement and the Scientific Research Council.

“We will distribute 10,000 kits to householders this year, valued at approximately $40 million, and the 4-H and RADA will assist in setting up these gardens. Other kits will be available for sale through collaboration with local agricultural stores,” the health minister said.

The wellness agenda will also include a 'Better For You' menu option for restaurants to give consumers better information on healthier choices. This is being developed in collaboration with a number of restaurant chains.

In addition, the health authorities will “encourage and support the promotion of wellness events like outdoor hikes, walks, and runs and workout sessions in town centres in conjunction with the local municipalities”.

Tufton also said that the programme will feature pop-up markets across Jamaica to highlight the nutritional content, availability, and cost effectiveness of eating locally grown seasonal produce.

“Eating healthily does not have to be expensive, and we want to show Jamaicans that — in keeping with this wellness agenda,” Tufton said.

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