The Lionel Town Hospital (LTH) in Clarendon has embarked on a drive to get its residents to eat healthier, empowering them with information and teaching practical methods of preparing affordable meals.
The hospital’s inaugural nutrition symposium was held on its compound on Thursday, April 21, which focused on teaching residents about proper nutrition from birth to adulthood, with focus on persons living with Non-Communicable diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.
Senior Medical Officer at the facility, Dr. Andre McKenzie explained that along with Head of Paediatrics at the LTH, Dr. Tamara McKenzie-Gayle, they conceptualized the initiative because the community has certain nutritional needs regarding children and adults.
“Because of this we decided this is what we want to focus on and we want to do it in a such a way that we are using foods that the community use every day and can afford. All we want to do is to educate them about which of the foods are the more healthier ones; so that is one of the reasons why we came up with this symposium. It is also a need that is all over the country but we want to ensure that the catchment area of Lionel Town is focused on” Dr. McKenzie explained.
Dr. McKenzie noted that even though persons are adherent with their medications, they are still having challenges because of their nutrition.
“Instead of educating one or two persons, we decided that we will take a community based approach to show them the importance of nutrition in getting their conditions under control and in some cases even reversing their chronic illnesses. We are educating persons on the healthier food choices and the proportion, so stick to your servings and don’t overeat” Dr. McKenzie said.
Dr. McKenzie-Gayle noted that her team noticed a spike in the number of malnourished children admitted at the hospital and also those who were below the normal growth pattern. She added that the symposium also focused on the importance of breastfeeding, particularly for the first six months of a child’s life.
“When I had discussions with Dr. McKenzie, he had similar challenges with the adult population in terms of his diabetics and hypertensives so we wanted to see if we could improve it from a community level” Dr. McKenzie-Gayle.
Minister of State in the Ministry of Health & Wellness, Hon. Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn, who delivered the keynote address commended the team at the hospital for using the symposium as a means of educating Jamaicans to choose a healthier lifestyle.
“As we understand and know the COVID-10 Pandemic really did a number on not just the Jamaican population but due to the NCDs that persons had, it caused demise for a lot of Jamaicans. So we really want to bring to the fore the importance of eating healthy and also to get our nation moving again, now that the Pandemic has taken a little break.”
Minister Cuthbert-Flynn noted that Jamaicans should use the effects of COVID-19 on persons with lifestyle illnesses as a lesson to be healthier through proper nutrition and exercise.
The Symposium, which will be an annual event, was staged under the theme, “Bite by Bite: Healthy Eating, Better Living”.