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​(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana) Today across the Caribbean Community we observe Caribbean Wellness Day under the theme ‘Love that Body – Building the Foundation for Healthy Lifestyles'. For 2012 we are focusing on addressing the prevention and control of Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) among the Regions’ children.

Similar activities, such as the walk today and the ‘Know Your NCD’s Risk Day’ which was co-sponsored by the Ministry of Health and the CARICOM Secretariat yesterday, are taking place in all our Member States and Associate Members. I congratulate the Ministry of Health and the Government of Guyana for the programme that they have planned to observe Caribbean Wellness Day not only today but for the rest of the month.

This annual celebration was inaugurated in 2008and is in keeping with the 2007 Port of Spain Declaration ‘Uniting to Stop the Epidemic of NCDs’. This Declaration was the outcome of the first ever summit on NCDs which demonstrated clearly the concerns of CARICOM Heads of Government, about the physical, economic and social burdens caused by lifestyle-related diseases. They recognized that the prevalence of diabetes, hypertension, stroke, heart disease, obesity and cancer in our Community was taking a significant toll on our human capital, our most important resource.

That Declaration outlined a series of necessary measures to address the four main risk factors that foster NCDs, namely physical inactivity, inadequate diets, tobacco use and the harmful use of alcohol.

The first four years of observing Wellness Day focused on raising the awareness of the burden of NCDs at both the Regional and National levels and on Member States prioritising the battle against NCDs in their plans. As the movement gained momentum, the crusade moved on to the global stage and our Community took the lead in successfully urging the United Nations to convene a High Level meeting in September 2011 on NCDs.

In going forward the Community’s Wellness Day observations will be centred around preventing and controlling NCDs throughout the life cycle. It is in that context that this year we begin with a focus on children in order to promote a healthy lifestyle from as early as possible and provide them with the foundation to ensure a healthy and productive workforce and population.

At this time let us pause and reflect on lifestyles of the children in our lives, and ask ourselves some critical questions.

Are we facilitating for our children at least 30 minutes of daily physical activity? Are we setting an example by engaging in regular physical activities ourselves?

Are we making accessible and providing meals that provide a balanced diet with the required food groups paying particular attention to fruits and vegetables? Are the portions provided appropriate or are we supersizing? Are we setting an example in our eating habits?

Do we provide a smoke free environment for our children at home, in our cars and as far as possible in other public places?

What example do we set in relation to the consumption of alcohol?

The answers to these questions would inform us of the foundation we are building for our future generation. The lifestyles and habits observed and developed during childhood are the basis of adult lifestyles with implications for our health status as an adult.

As adults we have the responsibility to ourselves to lead healthy lifestyles for our personal well-being, as well as to ensure a healthy and productive workforce and an equal responsibility to our children to set good examples and nurture them in the development of their healthy lifestyles.

Today, therefore, let us resolve to address our NCD risk factors and be good examples to the children around us. Let us also resolve to do what we can to ensure that our children develop healthy lifestyles to protecting their health and wellbeing full in the knowledge that the ‘Health of the Region is the Wealth of the Region’. I Thank you

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