Health promotion unit in St. Kitts aims to encourage a culture of healthy living

SKNIS:  

Basseterre, St. Kitts, June 15, 2018 (SKNIS): The culture of eating fast-food is quite prevalent in St. Kitts and the Health Promotion Unit is addressing this issue head-on, says Latoya Matthew Duncan, Nutrition Surveillance Coordinator in the Ministry of Health, appearing on this week’s (June 13) edition of “Working for You.”

“Fast food culture is in full gear here,” she said. “Sometimes, not only speaking to the fast food chains, but we also have a culture where we have persons who every weekend it is acceptable not to prepare home cooked meals and it is okay to go to a fast food chain whether to get chicken and chips or to go to different fast food public entities that have these foods available.”

Encouraging persons to make wise decisions when it comes to the foods they eat is one of the ways in which the unit is helping to tackle the spread of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), said Mrs. Duncan.

“What we in the Health Promotion Unit is currently trying to do is that we are trying to encourage self-care where we want to empower individuals to make right decisions,” she explained.

The nutrition surveillance coordinator noted that individuals can visit fast food restaurants, but everything must be done in moderation.

“This is what we want persons to know. We are not saying that you cannot have certain types of food now and again, but it’s how regular you are going to have this food item and how much of this food item you are going to have,” she said.

Mrs. Duncan said that when a culture of eating fast food or unhealthy food develops, the dynamic of learnt behaviour follows.

“Once you start the development of cultures, there is something known as learnt behavior where if you have a family, for example, and this family is accustomed to only fried chicken, then there is a high possibility that is how it’s going to continue throughout generations. Every time they prepare chicken, they would have to fry it,” she said.

The Health Promotion Unit, said Mrs. Duncan, will try to encourage a culture of preparing healthy meals.

“What we are trying to do, in teaching self-care, is to educate persons to make better decisions to plan healthier meals so that they don’t just spontaneously say that they don’t want to cook today or they don’t have time to cook so let me go into one of these fast food franchises and purchase something that would be most of the time unhealthy to eat,” said Mrs. Duncan.

The Health Promotion Unit is made up of three health programmes, namely the National AIDS Programme, the Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) Programme, and the Nutrition Surveillance Programme.

The role and responsibility of the unit are to assess local health needs, contribute to operational and strategic plans, review programmes to ensure that they seek to promote health and define health promotion and disease prevention strategies to be included in the national socio-economic development process.

In addition, the unit promotes healthy living though advocacy for healthy public policy, public education and healthy community projects to create supportive environments, manages Health Education programmes on specific issues such as HIV/AIDS, Nutrition, Chronic Non- Communicable and other health related issues and provides training, support and counselling to all Health Care Providers and agencies who provide Health Promotion and Family Life Education programmes
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