Wellness is an all-hands-in mission

Lost in much of the crosstalk and social media buzz over the past week has been the important fact that, yesterday, September 9, 2023, all across the Caribbean Community (Caricom) there were celebrations for Caribbean Wellness Day.

It may shock some that this year marks 15 years of its observance.

While, as a nation, the popularisation of the word wellness in Government speak may be new, this activity was borne out of a 2007 decision by the Conference of Heads of Government of Caricom, in Port of Spain, "uniting to stop the epidemic of chronic noncommunicable diseases".

Dr Carla Barnett, Caricom secretary general, tells us in her message for the day that 'Power Through Collective Action' was agreed as the overarching theme for Caribbean Wellness Day from 2020-2024.

The Caricom Secretariat, in collaboration with the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), have designed this year's activities under the sub-theme: 'The Care We Need: At Work, At School, At Home'.

Says madam secretary general: "The objectives of Caribbean Wellness Day 2023 are to advocate for policies that promote healthy behaviours in Caribbean people at the community, institutional, national and regional levels; actions that reduce barriers to healthy behaviours for individuals and households; and programmes and activities that promote physical activity, healthy eating, mental wellness and health-seeking behaviours within workplaces and schools."

We note that our local Ministry of Health and Wellness mounted, as part of the country's observance of Caribbean Wellness Day 2023, a Weekend of Wellness (WOW). Among the activations were free health checks, workout sessions, a concert, and nutritious food offerings.

Health professionals, more than any other grouping, understand the difference a focus on wellness can make to the intensity and efficacy of the work they do. This often turns them into not just heroes, but advocates.

This newspaper hosted a few advocates for a Monday Exchange with editors and reporters last week. The cause: Immunisation.

Drs Julia Rowe Porter, acting director, Family Health Unit, Health Services Planning & Integration Branch, Ministry of Health & Wellness; Anona Griffith, paediatrician and lecturer; and proclaimed "vaccine warrior" Mrs Kaydia Levien-McKoy joined efforts to protect the gains of the national vaccination programme in post-pandemic Jamaica.

With a population of children who have missed vaccine doses, Dr Rowe Porter said they are not fully protected and are at risk of contracting vaccine-preventable diseases, if exposed.

Vaccine-preventable diseases, she charged, can be very costly, resulting in hospitalisations and premature deaths. Additionally, national and local outbreak responses take a lot of time, money, and manpower, which Jamaica can ill afford.

We are told that, through the success of the national Expanded Programme on Immunisation, Jamaica had the last case of polio in 1982, the last case of locally transmitted measles in 1991, the last case of diphtheria in 1995, the last case of rubella (German measles) in 2000, and newborn tetanus in 2001.

As part of the wellness of the nation, Jamaica needs to get back on track as having a record of excellence in achieving more than 95 per cent coverage for all recommended childhood vaccines. It is therefore very important to follow the national schedule and get vaccinated on time.

This must be the collective mission of all of us. The care and protection of our nation's children must include immunisations. Parents, relatives, the whole village should get on board.

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