Good evening and warm greetings to each of you.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.  This 1998 best-selling book by Dr Richard Carlson lists 100 little things which take over our lives and cause stress.  Dr Carlson ends the book with the terse but simple command, ‘Treasure you.”   Is it possible that these two words can unlock the secrets to wellness and a healthy lifestyle?  Very likely, if we practice this adage, there will be no need for the Pan American Health Organization to develop an action plan to eliminate the risk factors to prevent 80% of heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, and over 40% of some cancers in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Mrs. Allen and I are delighted to be here with you this evening  to share in this  5th Annual Wellness and Lifestyle Promotion hosted by the Environmental Health Foundation during ‘Wellness Month’.  It is not coincidental that this subject is being addressed by an Organization, which is dedicated to the promotion of sustainable development through health, education and environment, as these broad concepts are inter-related. 

Development is inclusive and must integrate all aspects of our human and spiritual life according to the will of God.  To achieve this, people must be informed about the science of human existence and the best means of acquiring and preserving health and wellness.  Education programmes such as those organized by the Environmental Health Foundation, provides information that will enlighten and empower individuals to adopt those lifestyle practices that will enable them to achieve wellness.

It is within that context that events such as this for which we are gathered take on even greater significance. It is not only about recognizing and rewarding the accomplishments of those involved in the promotion of wellness, but ‘Wellness Month’ also provides an opportunity for the dissemination of useful information. 
I commend the organizers for their initiative to raise public awareness about the stress management and its contribution to their well being.  The involvement of Mayor of Kingston and practitioners in the field of medicine serves as a welcome endorsement for your efforts.

Significance of the theme

I note with optimism that the wellness and lifestyle promotion activities for this week and extending through the month of April are being implemented under the theme ‘Management of Stress through Wellness and Positive Lifestyles’.    Stress Management is the process of identifying stress factors, learning coping skills to deal with them in order to feel better emotionally, improve behavioural skills, and enhance feelings of control.  Stress Management is an area in medicine that has gained in importance in recent years as people seek new and effective ways of taking control of their lives, preventing disease and enhancing health. 

The challenges of stress permeate our entire existence, be it good stress or bad stress.  We have heard of the Type A and Type B personalities.  Bookstores and the Internet abound with articles on stress management and surveys to determine our levels of stress.  We are told there are approximately 38 symptoms of physical stress, 22 symptoms of emotional stress, and 16 symptoms of behavioural stress.   There is no shortage of information on stress-reducing techniques such as: progressive relaxation, deep-breathing, autogenic training, biofeedback, meditation, exercise, and symbolic imagery and others.

One may argue:  How can I manage the problems and live a stress-free life, especially in Jamaica today?  There are the stressors of: emotions, family, social conditions, crime and violence,  changes, chemical substances, work-related stressors, decisions, commuting,  physical stressors, disease, pain and the environment – to name a few.  All these stressors decrease our productivity and enjoyment of life. 

Fortunately, the flip side of this gloomy scenario relate to the benefits of wellness, which   include: living simply, enjoying life more, adopting a healthy lifestyle, returning to wholeness, and generally being ‘in favor with God and man.’

Importance of Wellness and Healthy Lifestyles

For governments, policy makers and health professionals, health and wellness has attracted greater attention based on the potential influence on human, social and economic development. The health of the nation is the wealth of the nation and a higher incidence of chronic and non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular illnesses can destabilize our development objectives. 

When we contemplate the enormous amount of medical and financial resources the country spends on the treatment of chronic non-communicable diseases we realise the situation is untenable given our limited resources.  We are also confronted with the challenge of providing wider access to treatment and medicinal services for chronic diseases, which further compounds the problem. Correcting the anomalies is therefore an important and necessary step, especially as the country responds to the downturn in the global economy.  

Stress is no respecter of our Human Systems.  It affects the Cardiovascular, Digestive, Immune and Skeletal-Muscular Systems, causing a variety of health problems.  Lifestyle related illnesses can be affected by factors, such as dietary patterns; sedentary lifestyle practices; negative attitudes, habits and behaviours.  It is also affected by education and income levels, and the social values of our environment.  However, the fact that these factors are external to our physical being means that they can be modified to make these illnesses preventable or more manageable.    Easier said than done one might think, but the situation is an urgent one for Jamaica. 

Chronic diseases and particularly non-communicable illnesses, pose a serious threat to our social and economic development and the health and well-being of thousands of Jamaicans.  Correcting the imbalance between good health and our lifestyle requires collaboration among all stakeholders using a multi-strategy, inter-programmatic approach. 

Alternatives & Possible Solutions

The debilitating effects of poor stress management must be dealt with aggressively in order to attain the goal of health and prosperity for all.  Jude 1:24 states, Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy.”  It is fitting that your primary target is helping people survive the current social and economic problems, as this approach will engage Jamaicans in an understanding and appreciation of the impact of the present crises on the social and psychological determinants of health and wellness.

It is in an attempt to help individuals cope with stress and adopt healthy lifestyles, that programmes such as the 18-day NEWSTART Programme at the Weimar Centre of Health and Education in California was started. Some of you may have heard of this Programme before. NEWSTART is an acronym for:

N – Nutrition: Proper nutrition is the foundation of good health and
      recovery from disease.

E – Exercise:  Action is a law of life. Muscle tone and strength are
lost without exertion, but exercise improves the health of body, mind, and spirit multiplying vitality and health.  Walking is promoted as one of the best forms of exercise. Twenty minutes per day and after each meal.

W – Water: The body is 70% water, therefore keeping well hydrated bodies and knowing what and when to drink are essential to health. Hydrotherapy and massages are utilized to   enhance the circulation and immune systems.

S – Sunshine: The sun is the established energy source ordained by
God to sustain the cycle of life on earth for plants and animals. Sunlight is important for the body's metabolism and hormonal   balance and to prevent jaundice caused by a lack of vitamin D.

T – Temperance: Using good things moderately and avoiding the bad.

A – Air:  the body's most essential resource is air. More important than food or water, proper breathing and pure air are fundamental to good health.

R -  Rest:  Restoration requires rest because sleep allows the body to
renew itself. Many types of rest are important for health, but the sweetest rest follows labor.

T – Trust in Divine power. Directly linked to physical health trust in
          God is a gift leading to right choices.

Other alternatives and solutions to dealing with stress management must include increased public education, promotion of the benefits of behaviour change in areas such as dieting and increased physical activity, and creating public policy which will further increase access to health care especially for vulnerable groups.

When proper care is taken to supply the mind, body and soul with all the spiritual and nutritional elements that it needs, the result will be a healthy society that is suitably positioned to build the wealth of the nation through strength and wellness that is inspired by the Creator.

I believe that God’s promise is for a spiritually and physically healthier Jamaica. If we embrace nature by planting trees and building nature trails in every community across Jamaica especially those in urban areas, we could get more people involved in physical activity such as walking and jogging.  This is one way of empowering communities to improve their prospects of realizing wellness and a healthy lifestyle.  The environment is the best gym and doesn’t cost us anything if we use it wisely.  I believe we can enjoy a healthier lifestyle if we engage in more physical activity.  Let us do it. 

We also need to target the youth to ensure that they do not engage in behaviours that are habit forming and will become deep-seated and therefore difficult to correct in later years.  The interactive youth School Wellness Seminar that will be held later this week is commendable and the wellness seeds that you will sow should bear healthy fruits in the future.

Finally, in our pursuit of wellness and healthy lifestyles, let us recognize that this cannot be achieved without developing the social environment which is both a consequence of product of the overall state of health in the country.  Vulnerable groups such as the poor, women and children require special attention. 

Conclusion

I commend those persons, organizations and institutions that have been recognized this evening for their outstanding contribution to the promotion of wellness as a habit and not a disposition among the people of Jamaica.  Keep up the good work and in so doing demonstrate a level of commitment to Jamaica. 

I applaud the Environmental Health Foundation for its commitment over the years to providing strategic investment and support to groups and individuals in Jamaica.  Your contribution has enabled these organizations to significantly improve the health, environment and education status and wellbeing of Jamaicans. 

I wish the Foundation, it volunteers, sponsors and partners success in all endeavours and I hope that you will grow in strength and in purpose through God’s grace and guidance.