I recently completed the Eight Weeks to Wellness programme here in The Bahamas. This programme is put on by the Better Living Health Center each year in the Bahamas. As one of the coaches, I assisted in the guidance of just under 200 persons to achieve a better and healthier lifestyle. Most of the persons apart of the programme were plagued by Chronic Non-communicable Diseases (CNCDs) including hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancers. The programme was complete with dietitians, nurses and doctors whom provided meticulous screening of each participant before the start of the program and again, at the end of the program to measure progress. The vitals/statistics of most of the participants were quite alarming in the beginning. Not surprising, most of the persons were cooking fried foods already high in fats and carbohydrates and consuming large amounts of sugar-high drinks.
Within this program we advocated the importance of: vegetables being the predominant food on the plate; reducing the consumption of red meat (and reducing meat intake in general); drinking 8 – 10 glasses of water; reducing alcohol consumption; getting enough rest and exercise and we even stressed the importance of having a healthy mind by focusing on the positive and not the negative around you. In other words, the guidance was holistic.
According to the World Health Organization, Chronic Non-communicable Diseases are the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the Bahamas (World Health Organization, 2013). Overall, CNCDs cause over 45% of deaths in The Bahamas. We know these statistics can actively and aggressively be reduced because there are numerous behavioural risk factors shared by some CNCDs which can be controlled by individuals. The most common risk factors are “a diet high in saturated fat and low in fresh fruit and vegetables, physical inactivity, tobacco smoking, and alcohol excess”. As well, “up to 80% of all cases of cardiovascular disease or type-2 diabetes and 40% of all cases of cancer… are probably preventable based on current knowledge” (Unwin & Alberti, 2006).
The Eight Weeks to Wellness programme had a graduation at which participants invited family members and friends to share in the triumph of their progress through the program. At the graduation, I listened as persons gave emotional testimonials of losing weight, decreasing their blood pressure, decreasing sugar levels and losing inches off their waist. This was after only eight weeks! It was especially laudable that these results were achieved because the Easter holiday took place during this period and lots of bread and fried foods were likely consumed (admittedly, participants were given a game plan to combat Easter temptations). However, imagine if changes were made permanently over an extended period of time? Our health care costs would be drastically reduced.
Better Living Health Center also carried out this programme in a local government primary school which, too, revealed successful results. If this program continues to be replicated, there would be mostly healthy foods cooking in the kitchens of the Bahamas.
Hey good-lookin’, what are you cookin’?