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Sep 24, 2015

Healthy Living looks at Caribbean Wellness Week

Caribbean Wellness Week is being celebrated under the theme: Healthy Lifestyle, Healthy Aging. Several activities have been scheduled for this week to encourage Belizeans to adopt healthy lifestyle changes. Today, I visited the Wellness Open Day organized by the Ministry of Health and its partners to get some advice on the importance and tips of healthy living.


Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

The celebration of Caribbean Wellness Day started back in 2008. The goal was to motivate people from all across the Caribbean region to make healthier lifestyle choices. This year’s focus is improving the quality of life as we age encompassed in the theme: Healthy Lifestyle Healthy Aging. Nutritionist at the Ministry of Health, Robyn Daly says healthy aging starts long before our senior years.


Robyn Daly, Nutritionist, Ministry of Health

Robyn Daly

“The theme is fitting  because you always hear the term prevention is better than cure so we are looking at encouraging people to practice the healthy lifestyle concept before you reach old age or before you reach middle age, we are saying is to start practicing early. So healthy lifestyle and then you actually will age in a healthy way as well; you don’t wait until you are sick to start to bring about your health. We start early, as early as possible and we continue through the life cycle.”


Dr. Jorge Polanco

Dr. Jorge Polanco, N.C.D. Focal Point, PAHO

“When we use the term healthy living or healthy lifestyle we are thinking about the present. When we add the phrase healthy aging then we are saying we are presently living in a healthy conditions, if you are not sick you are well then you will be ensuring to a significant degree an aging where you will not have diseased putting it in simple words.”


Robyn Daly

“Main contributing factors is overweight and obesity, we are also looking at people having high blood pressure depending on what they eat as well. We are also looking at people when we do our blood profile, we do triglycerides, we do cholesterol, so the fat intake that we take in, those are all factors that put you at risk for getting diseases, we could make those small choices and changes to try to make ourselves healthier by just watching what we eat.”


Encouraging both the young and older citizens to eat healthier is an ongoing campaign by multiple organizations. For Health Education Officer, Arlette Sheppard in her work with HECOPAB promoting healthy choices, she finds that people are aware of what needs to be done to get healthy.


Arlette Sheppard

Arlette Sheppard, Health Educator, HECOPAB/MOH

“People are aware they know what the risk factors are for hypertension, for cancers, for diabetes so the awareness has already been done, we need to change that awareness to actual change of behavior.”


Sheppard tries to teach people that eating healthy is not as difficult or expensive as they believe; as she demonstrated at today’s Wellness fair.


Arlette Sheppard

“People go for foods that are very expensive so they look at cauliflower as their first options, pears, apples, things that are imported, so we are thinking about our healthy local foods and we have some colors here that we are teaching people the more colorful your plate is the more healthier your late is. So if you look at our rice and okra meal for example, we have a slice of tomato that is red; so we have three colors white, green and red. We have homemade chowmein, we have chicken foot soup, chicken feet is a very cheap meal, we have boiled eggs with a little tomato sauce, we have pumpkin and rice, we have a chocho and egg soup that is very cheap. So those are the foods we have out here on display and we are hoping that we can teach people how to prepare them. The Ministry of Health has produced a very nice cook book with some help from the World Bank, so we are showcasing that as well, that has some nice healthy meals, and some easy options as well.”


Robyn Daly

“The choices we decide to eat, our food choices is one and our portions, especially the portions, because sometimes it’s not really what you’re eating but it is how much your having, how you are eating it, how often you are having it  and most of that is the challenge that most people face; that moderation hat they need to keep in mind especially if it is something that they really like, they want more, they want  it in large portions and also lack of physical activity or exercise, we are not doing enough of that so I think once we can address those issues we would be healthier.”


The aim, according to Dr Polanco, is to get young people to recognize that choosing a healthier lifestyle prepares them for a better quality of life as they age.


Dr. Jorge Polanco

“The issue with aging and the disease of the aging are generally speaking apart from osteoarthritis apart from those diseases you have non communicable diseases such as diabetes and hypertension but most of all the complications of these. So then you will reach at age 60 with a congestive heart failure which means an enlarged heart that perhaps is due to hypertension over many years.”


Dr. Jorge Polanco

“A recent report showed that people who would be diagnosed with diabetes they average time that they would visit to do an eye test would be ten years after, that’s the average. So that means that they waited until they had signs that they are not seeing good to go and do an eye check. So it means that by then the complications set in, the body adjusts and you would not be aware until you start feeling signs and symptoms.”


So, once again, the key elements to healthier lifestyle and aging healthy starts with what you eat & how much you move.


Arlette Sheppard

“You need some fruits some vegetables, you need some legumes, some beans and peas, you need a little bit of meat. We are not promoting cheese and the expensive foods, all we are promoting is local healthy foods, that is cheap and quick to cook and that sort of things. Because we need to change behavior, the easier the behavior is, the quicker it is to change.”


Robyn Daly

“First of all start exercising that’s one big tip that you can’t go wrong with, if you exercise you can have more of the foods you like, it also keeps a heart healthy, it reduces stress,  it addresses mental health as well, we can actually maintain our weight by watching what we eat and also exercising. So having that moderation as well I would say try not to engage in foods that are high in sugars, high is salt and high in fats. Those three food tips and exercising are to me small little advice that I can give people and  we would say once you practice those, those are the steps to having a healthier lifestyle.”


Marleni Cuellar reporting for News Five.


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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2 Responses for “Healthy Living looks at Caribbean Wellness Week”

  1. belizebewise says:

    This a great start to promoting healthy eating/healthy lifestyle. However, just a few things I would like to point out. Firstly, WHITE anything is bad. White rice, White flour etc, etc. That being said, Ms. Sheppard’s comment: “So if you look at our rice and okra meal for example, we have a slice of tomato that is red; so we have three colors white, green and red. We have homemade chowmein, we have chicken foot soup, chicken feet is a very cheap meal, we have boiled eggs with a little tomato sauce, we have pumpkin and rice, we have a chocho and egg soup that is very cheap. ” needs a bit tweaking. Brown rice or Quinoa is far more better for you in terms of nutrients. Chicken feet and eggs are sources of protein but if you are going to eat meat, it is better to choose lean cuts such as chicken breast and prepare it using little or no fat (oils, butter). To avoid or reduce high cholesterol, cutting out meat entirely would be a good idea. Since Belizeans love deep fried foods, I also think the topic of reducing this intake would be a good start and also discussing the various oils and their benefits should be discussed. Trading vegetable oil for Coconut oil is a great switch. Using more locally (and organically) grown products should also be promoted. It would not only improve one’s health to eat more green leafy, fiber and protein rich veggies but also contribute to local small businesses. Foreign countries such as the U.S should not be looked up to for advice regarding food since most of their products are GMO and more than half the population is overweight.

  2. Belizesoul says:

    I live in the US now, and you told it like it is, belizebewise! Especially about the fried food, white rice, and eating more green veggies. And in the US, it is all about convenience- most Americans don’t cook many meals at home, and they drink too much soda!

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