Regional

Need for green space

Health specialists point to developmental benefits

Monday, April 21, 2014    

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Local health sector leaders want more focus on the development of green space for exercise and wellness to complement initiatives for economic revival following the collapse of the bauxite/alumina sector.

At a recent town hall meeting hosted by the Southern Regional Health Authority (SRHA), head of the Brooks Park Sports and Recreational Complex, Dr Clifton Reid and Regional Technical Director of SRHA Dr Michael Coombs drew attention to the issue.

Brooks Park, close to the centre of Mandeville, is the main green space and open air recreational area in the fast-growing capital of Manchester. It has been the subject of much debate down the years as to how it should be developed.

Reid told the health forum at Cecil Charlton Hall that while the economic discourse is useful, creating avenues for people to take care of their physical and mental well-being should also be given serious consideration.

He spoke of a recent business forum in Mandeville which explored avenues for economic growth but gave short thrift to his intervention on the need for green spaces.

"I tried to engage the leaders (of the discussion) on the importance of.... investing in green space for the very employees (expected) to drive this (economic) growth. I managed to get the question in, but I was (sidestepped) very quickly by somebody who had more important things to discuss," Reid told his audience.

The physician noted that in countries where the benefits of green space are appreciated there is a park every few miles.

Coombs lamented that treating the growing number of non-communicable diseases was very costly for the health sector. He said there was need to encourage prevention strategies, including exercise and healthy recreation.

"It is obviously much more affordable to deal with (the) risk factors... rather than deal with the diseases themselves," he said.

Coombs said that conditions such as obesity, diabetes, some cancers and certain chronic respiratory diseases can be prevented through lifestyle choices including proper nutrition, physical activity and reduction in alcohol and tobacco use.

"We have to provide the environments that facilitate physical activity.... (and) social interaction...," he said.

Coombs said that there was a non-communicable disease strategic plan covering the period 2013-2018 and prevention and health promotion are areas of focus.

He said that while Government has a responsibility to provide health centres and hospitals, individuals had a primary responsibility to take care of their health. Children should be guided on the path of a healthy lifestyle from early,

he said.

Business and community leaders in Manchester and the wider south central Jamaica have been advocating new and diversified investments following the 2009 closure of the Alpart bauxite/alumina plant in Nain, St Elizabeth and Windalco in Manchester.

Bauxite mining supported the economy in Central Jamaica for over 50 years.

Among the more popular ideas being mooted for Mandeville and its environs is development of an information technology and knowledge hub.

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