Caribbean Wellness DayFeaturedHealthStatements by Secretary-General

Message from Dr Carla N. Barnett, Secretary-General, Caribbean Community, (CARICOM), on Caribbean Wellness Day, 9 September 2023

Caribbean Wellness Day has been a landmark activity for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) for the past 15 years.  This followed the 2007 Decision by the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM, reflected in the Port-of-Spain Declaration “Uniting to Stop the Epidemic of Chronic Non-communicable Diseases”, that the second Saturday in September should be observed annually as Caribbean Wellness Day.  Over the years, Member States have extended their activities to complement health advocacy and promotion strategies in their national health programmes.

‘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), has designed this year’s activities under the sub-theme: “The Care we Need: At Work, At School, At Home’.

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.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, when the greater proportion of deaths was among people with co-morbidities, especially those related to non-communicable diseases (NCDs), we saw clearly the impact of NCDs on our Region.  The risk of these diseases is increased by modifiable behaviours, such as tobacco use, physical inactivity, the harmful use of alcohol and unhealthy diets.

The residual effects of COVID-19 continue to impact the Region’s health, with mental health care pinpointed as a pressing need for young people.  This year, the Youth Development Programme will implement a mental health initiative to address the issue.  This follows a Regional Mental Health Survey which was conducted to assess the psychological well-being of young people and inclusion of the need to develop a mental health policy as an agenda item for the meeting of the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) – Health in 2022.  We must continue to pursue these and other programmes to support the mental well-being of our young people.

In 2022, the CARICOM Secretariat collaborated with The University of the West Indies and successfully implemented the Food and Nutrition (FAN) Project.  We intend to leverage the recommendations from this important Project to positively impact the health and wellness of the people of our Region.

The call to policy action at the level of the Heads of Government is timely and urgent.  We must all take steps to minimise the risk of NCDs, through individual and collective action.  This will lessen the economic and emotional burdens on our families, communities and health systems.

Our focus on this year’s sub-theme encourages us toaddress home, work and school, as some of the key environments which influence our health.  I urge you to create enabling environments to encourage health-seeking behaviors.  In 2007, we committed, as a Community, to halt the epidemic of NCDs.  The need is even more urgent today.

The Secretariat remains committed to continue working closely with our Member States, key institutions, and other health partners to promote and advocate for health policies that will promote healthier communities for all our citizens.

I wish everyone a healthy and happy Caribbean Wellness Day 2023.

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