Health Ministry launches fitness campaign, targets chronic diseases

In a quest to encourage Guyanese to live healthier lifestyles so as to the prevent the occurrence of chronic diseases, which are placing a burden on the health care system and causing deaths, the Ministry of Health last week launched the ‘Fit it, Weight No More’ health and wellness campaign.

The three-month campaign targets sports clubs, gyms, community groups or non-governmental with at least five persons per group. It includes a weight loss competition and a reality TV show titled “Weight No More” and “Fit it! Guyana” respectively. The TV show will follow the progress of the competition overtime and will highlight the issues, some of the struggles and the triumphs of the persons participating in getting fit and their journey in living a healthy life. The Merundoi Radio Drama is also onboard to help publicize the campaign and its message.

Trevor Smith of Harris Art, introducing the concept behind the campaign, explained that it deals with “getting the Guyanese public to engage in a healthier lifestyle based on changes in certain behaviour”. He said that the concept is based on behavioural changes, science, theories and models. “It is not just another thing we are doing. It is well thought out and a well-executed strategy.” He added that the concept is based mainly on the Body Mass Index (BMI) – the measurement of a person’s state of health based on the person’s height and weight.

According to Smith, the ministry is challenging persons to get to their best state which is based on their BMI. Explaining how that is going to be done, he said that the science of healthy living, technology and fashion would be blended together.

Social media, television and radio are being used to help push the campaign and so far it is on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. “We are going to be flooding the social media with the Fit It”, he said, adding that there will be documentary style productions in the form of the Reality TV show. Individuals and groups of people who have signed up will be followed as they make their journey.

He said the comments of medical doctors, counsellors, psychiatrists and nutritionists will be an added component to the TV show as well as a “Surprise of the week” where influential members of society will come and offer advice and words of encouragement. There will also be a “Fit it Street Talk” component which would entail on camera comments from the man in street.

As of yesterday, the FaceBook page had over 1,900 members. Explaining how the social media can be used, he said that persons participating can post pictures of themselves during and after activities such as a walk or a run.

Persons who excel will also receive awards.

Coordinator of the Chronic Disease Unit, Ministry of Health Dr Karen Gordon-Boyle, who is driving force behind the campaign said this is a plan for “changing a Guyanese culture”, but it will take a lot of effort and time.

“When we look at the deaths we have from chronic diseases they are more than the deaths we have from TB and HIV/AIDS combined,” she said.

Chronic diseases are often referred to as lifestyle diseases and are among the top four leading cause of deaths in Guyana since 2006. “But yet we have not managed to get the same kind of hype, attention or funding that HIV has had,” she pointed out.

She noted that chronic diseases are diseases that can exist in the body over long periods of time and are not usually transmissible. These diseases she said are being focused on because they can lead to premature death and loss of productivity.

According to her, 50% of deaths are caused by chronic diseases and 80% of the deaths occur in countries such as Guyana. She said that these diseases hinder development in many of these countries. Fifty per cent of the people who have diabetes and 25% of the people who have hypertension (High Blood Pressure) do not know, she said adding that often the signs are ignored.   She said that detection can be made early but only fs people do the recommended annual checkup.

Gordon-Boyle said that 33% of persons who are diagnosed with diabetes and 50% of persons with hypertension do not take the appropriate medication.

The leading causes of death in both males and females, she said are heart disease, stroke, diabetes and hypertension. “If we can attack the behaviours that put you at risk for these diseases then we can reduce the risk of developing the diseases,” she noted. She also singled out tackling alcoholism and tobacco use to help in stamping out chronic diseases and stressed the need for persons to eat a balanced diet.

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