This year marks 14 years since the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has been observing Caribbean Wellness Day. This is in keeping with the 2007 Port-of-Spain Declaration “Stop the Epidemic of Chronic Non-communicable Diseases” which was issued by the Heads of Government following their historic Summit on the issue.
In 2020, it was decided that ‘Power Through Collective Action’, would be the overarching theme for Caribbean Wellness Day (CWD) for the next five (5) years (2020-2024). The CARICOM Secretariat is pleased, in collaboration with CARPHA and the Pan American Health Organisation, to celebrate this year with the sub theme: “In it together! Building Healthy Communities”.
The objectives for CWD 2021 are to:
a. Promote equitable access to health; and
b. Work together (governments, communities, civil society) to empower, and engage individuals and communities to promote health and well-being.
Our Region, for some time, has been experiencing an increase in mortality associated with Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), mainly due to increased consumption of unhealthy diets, harmful use of alcohol, tobacco use, and physical inactivity.
The current COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the existing realities. The co-morbidities such as cancer, hypertension, cancer and diabetes all of which are NCDs that are prevalent in the Community, have contributed significantly to the more than 6,500 deaths attributed to Covid-19 since March 2020. The loss of lives, livelihoods and the accompanying social and economic distress brought on by the pandemic have adversely affected our Member States.
The weeks leading up to this year’s observance of Caribbean Wellness Day have been particularly disturbing as a surge of deaths and hospitalisations due to the virus is threatening to overwhelm our health sector and further disrupt the education system. This demands that many more of us must be vaccinated to protect ourselves, our families and our countries.
The need for resources to address this crisis as well as the rising cost of NCDs is a conversation that has been a priority for all of us at policy level, but we have to ensure that this conversation includes all key stakeholders. This year’s theme, therefore, is very timely and instructive, as it encourages us to work together collectively in addressing the health and wellness issues associated to unhealthy behaviours.
Building healthy communities necessitates action at all levels. How do we communicate to the people in the street? How do we engage the youth? How do we communicate to those who have disabilities and often feel marginalised? Our citizens must be empowered to make informed decisions to improve their health status and, in so doing, the health of our communities.
The most vulnerable populations with chronic health conditions, such as HIV, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and mental health disorders must be targeted. But let us not forget the migrants residing within our borders whose health rights cannot be ignored. They too are vulnerable.
We will continue to work closely with our key Institutions, Member States and health partners to create the nexus that is needed between non-governmental organisations, civil society and communities to advance the efforts toward a healthier Community for all our citizens.
As we celebrate Caribbean Wellness Day 2021, let us commit to work together. We have experienced in this pandemic the importance of Functional Cooperation. We have witnessed the resilience of our communities through natural disasters. It is our collective action that has brought great results.
I call on all our citizens to act together in the fight for healthy communities. Please vaccinate.
Happy Caribbean Wellness Day to you all!
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