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Vincentian ‘wellth’ and wellness

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At my age, I am a member of two communities.

There is the community of those who have passed 70 years of age and are “falling asleep” in death. Recently Bro Lowman from Barrouallie, a colleague in the National Farmers Union of the 1980’s died; a sister Norma Keizer also passed on with dignity and cancer, then more recently comrade Casper London. I walked and talked with them, we shaped each other and they have gone ahead. There is too, a vibrant community of those who have survived 70 years of age and live active and expectant lives.{{more}}

I passed Raymond England last week on the street. I told him, “No, you are not Raymond England”, until I raised the cap he was wearing and bowed in apology when I beheld that nicely rounded brow. Raymond is active in Toronto, Canada.

Then there are the Hornes —John and Jeanne. He like Bassy, a glowing cancer survivor, and she a smooth music leader, teacher and nanny. May I mention too, an elder sister of mine Irwen Joshua normally residing in the USA, and our evergreen Mike Findlay and Joseph Neverson among others. I am a blessed and proud member of these two communities.Those who have gone ahead and those who still plough deep and bring rich fruit to our community.

My membership cards note that I have controlled “sugar” and “pressure”, I am a cancer survivor with latent circulatory system challenges and arthritis, pursuing an elusive livelihood in farming and lifestyle as educator and dare I admit it — liberator.

All of us, in both communities, have had the pleasure of enjoying and sustaining wellth and wellness as part of our living routine. Most of us have experienced the benefits and the crisis of our modern Vincentian health system. It has fed us and it has failed us, blessed us and buried us.

“Round Table” has chosen to enter the critical conversation touching on our wellth and wellness environment, infrastructure, policies, personnel and promise with an occasional article during the next few weeks.

 

LOOKING AT WELLNESS YESTERYEAR

Heart Disease in the OECS countries: an emerging emergency was the title of a 1988 monograph published by the RTC/WRL Diamond Village, SVG. We noted there, statistics for 1975-1980 number of deaths by major cause groups in SVG. At the close of a constitutional colonialism, the main diseases which plagued us are shown below. They indicate to us what tasks our health system had to confront and accomplish:

1032/3203 persons died from disease of the circulatory system(35%)

415/3203 persons died from infections and parasitic diseases(13%)

326/3203 persons died from neoplasm or cancers(10%)

280/3203 persons died from diseases of the respiratory system(appear 9%)

81/3203 persons died from diseases of the genito urinary system (2.5%)

Statistics for Dominica in 1975 among persons aged 45-64 years showed cancer to be the main cause of death, followed by diabetes, hypertension, strokes and other forms of heart disease. The RTC/WRC monograph pointed to 11 non patho physiological(medical) factors that went hand in hand with high mortality from heart disease.The first of these factors was “lifestyle practices related to diet, smoking, alcohol use, the level of physical activity and stressful situations”.

In relation to diet, especially those items which were imported and largely unhealthy, in 1977, the value of food and beverages imported was $27,000. In 1980, 4 years later, it was $54 million. Our medical services at the time in 1984, had 32 doctors, 115 nurses and 260 hospital beds. That was where we began when we took full control of our wellth and wellness programme 33 years ago. What has changed? How have we dealt with the legacy of colonial “wellth care”?

While our health statistics have changed the way they classify diseases and causes of death, we need to examine what we have done about the disease and death patterns of 30 years ago. We need to take stock of the diet and other lifestyle imperialisms that are killing us and what the old Alma Ata promise of “Health For All” by the year 2000 means today and who weilds the knife and sets the table that will slaughter us or save us.

The conversation must be critical, pointing fingers at ourselves and throwing light at actors, agencies, policies, practices and peripherals that pose threats and open doors to our Vincentian wealth and wellness. Life and Death is no joke.

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