Minister of Health, Donville Inniss (FP)????

Minister of Health, Donville Inniss, today called for health issues to be incorporated fully into urban public policy, to create healthier living conditions, especially for persons living and working in urban settings.

He was at the time delivering remarks at the 6th Lions and Leo Club of Barbados health fair, at Heroes Square, the City, to mark World Health Day.?? This year’s theme is "Urbanisation and Healthy Living".

While emphasising that inter-sectoral collaboration was an effective strategy, Minister Inniss urged private, public and non-governmental organisations to acknowledge their role in creating healthy living conditions in Barbados, since many of their actions, whether in urban, suburban or rural Barbados, fell outside the health sector.

Acknowledging that the differentiation between urban and rural areas was diminishing because of limited land resources, Mr. Inniss stated that rural areas such as St. Philip, St. Lucy, St. George and St. Peter were becoming more suburban in appearance, with the building of housing developments and shopping centres.??

The Health Minister said:?? "Our national aspirations include the desire to continue to develop our physical infrastructure and to improve the social and economic conditions to a standard that will provide an optimum quality of life for all Barbadians.?? However, as we pursue these goals, our approach to urban development must ensure that health is incorporated more broadly into urban public policy.

"…We are fortunate to live in a region of the world that has amenable climate conditions and we must create the opportunity to take advantage of our outdoor environment to improve our health and well-being."

He called for new housing developments to include usable, safe spaces for children to play and for adults to exercise or take a stroll at night.?? "Sad to say, open spaces have become, generally speaking, just another plot plan to satisfy the requirements of the Chief Town Planner," Mr. Inniss lamented.

The Health Minister, however, hastened to add that the issue went beyond the creation of open spaces and recreational facilities.?? "We say that we are serious about our health challenges and community development but yet groups are struggling to pay to have lights at some of these facilities. I trust that the relevant agencies take note and work with communities to get them active, especially at night. $1,000 per year to turn on the lights at a basketball court… is less than the cost of a two-night stay at the QEH for a young man who did not get the chance to shoot a few hoops at night and hence became unhealthy and developed cardiovascular challenges," he explained.

Also delivering remarks was PAHO/WHO Resident Representative to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Dr. Gina Watson.?? She pointed out that urban settings did have an impact on the health of residents. This, she stated, was of particular concern, since Latin America and the Caribbean was the world’s most urbanised developing region. The official, therefore, emphasised the need for city planners to develop walking paths and green areas within the city.

She added:?? "Families in urban areas are much less likely to have access to arable land on which they can plant fruits, vegetables and ground provisions to provide nutritious meals… they are more likely to rely on readibly available ???fast food’ of low-nutritional value.?? All of these factors contribute to the higher rate of risk factors for chronic diseases."

The annual Lions and Leo Club health fair included provided details about several health issues, including health care for the elderly, mental health, blood pressure and HIV testing, family planning and information from the Heart and Stroke Foundation.??

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