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Statement by Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) on the occasion of Caribbean Wellness Day, 14 September 2013

(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana) Six years after the historic signing by Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) of the 2007 Port-of-Spain Declaration ‘Uniting to Stop the Epidemic of NCDs’, the people of the Region are once again invited to join the Wellness Revolution as we observe Caribbean Wellness Day 2013.

The Declaration is the outcome of the concerns of our leaders about the physical, economic and social burdens caused by lifestyle-related diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, stroke, heart disease, obesity and cancer. The Declaration also outlines a selection of necessary measures to address the four main modifiable causative risk factors for Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) – physical inactivity, inadequate diets, tobacco use, and harmful use of alcohol. It also designated the second Saturday of September as Caribbean Wellness Day.
This year’s focus is on addressing the prevention and control of NCDs among the Regions’ youth under the theme ‘Ensuring healthy lifestyles among our youth for a brighter future’.  In our Region, current data on health behaviour among our youth are worrying, with increasing trends of obesity which can be attributed to unhealthy diets, increasingly sedentary lifestyles, greater consumption of tobacco and alcohol and earlier initiation of use of both these harmful products.  If these trends are not halted and reversed, the health of tomorrow’s adults, the base of our Region’s productive capacity, will be compromised.
I call on our Region’s youth to partner with us in the fight against NCDs by fostering greater health responsibility and awareness among your peers. I urge you to become involved as leaders and change agents in the design and implementation of programmes and interventions that will promote healthy eating, increased physical activity, the rejection of tobacco products, and the responsible consumption of alcohol.
I invite the ideas of our Region’s youth in interventions and initiatives that foster collaborative approaches, involving the whole of society to address the multifaceted issues of NCD prevention and control and which resonate throughout communities, villages, towns, cities, countries, our CARICOM Region and further afield.
Today, and for the week, month and year ahead, CARICOM Member States will be united in efforts to address the specific issues for the prevention and control of NCDs among the Region’s youth. Member States will be engaged in youth-led celebratory activities such as health fairs, fitness walks, sports and games, dance marathons, healthy food promotions, and health education sessions.
On the 6th Anniversary of the Port-of-Spain Declaration, let us all renew our pledge to ‘Unite to Stop the Epidemic of NCDs” and cognizant of the prominent role played by CARICOM in the International arena to put NCDs on the development agenda, support the efforts of our youth and pay credence to the slogan ‘we love our bodies’.
As the Secretary-General, I assure you that the CARICOM Secretariat will work steadfastly with Member States, Associate Members and Regional and International Partners, to invest in the health of the people of the Region, and build on the premise of the 2001 Nassau Declaration ‘The Health of the Region is the Wealth of Region’.

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