Health Minister Endorses CARICOM Wellness Initiative

Health Minister, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, has endorsed a CARICOM-led initiative aimed at reducing lifestyle diseases across the Caribbean through improved diets.

The four-year project, dubbed ‘Improving Household Nutrition Security and Public Health in CARICOM’, will feature coordinated interventions within national food systems that promote sustainable livelihoods of vulnerable groups, in order to combat obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

Its implementation is being spearheaded by the University of the West Indies (UWI) in collaboration with several key local, regional and international stakeholders.

The initiative is intended to build shared understanding from research undertaken about the frameworks and systems driving food production and consumption throughout the region.

Speaking during a project workshop at The Courtleigh Hotel & Suites, New Kingston, on March 21, Dr. Tufton said the initiative is critical in engendering an appreciation among Caribbean residents of the need for and factors underpinning good health and wellness.

“What we are setting out to do is fundamental and critical,” he said, adding that the information provided by the researchers should be used to develop a strategy that will have the “most meaningful impact on behavioural change”.

In this regard, the Minister emphasised the importance of utilising marketing and the requisite resources that can and will greatly influence the initiative’s resonance among individuals.

Dr. Tufton said the project is also timely in light of the fact that policymakers have been using and will continue to use data to advocate for regulatory frameworks for anticipated changes to provisions addressing preventable diseases.

The initiative, which runs from 2018 to 2022, will see Director of the George Alleyne Chronic Disease Research Centre and Deputy Dean for Research and Graduate Programmes, Faculty of Medical Sciences, UWI Cave Hill Campus, Barbados, Professor Alafia Samuels, serving as Principal Investigator.

Professor Samuels will be supported by researchers from the UWI’s three campuses – Mona, St. Andrew; St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago; and Cave Hill.

Inputs and support will also be provided by representatives of the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech); the United Kingdom-based Cambridge University; McGill University in Canada; and several other regional organisations.

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