Two out of three adults in Barbados are overweight or obese; more than one in three adults are hypertensive, and one in five have diabetes.
Beyond that, many of them do not eat the quantity of fruits and vegetables they should, neither do they exercise frequently enough.
This data, derived from a survey carried out by the Ministry of Health in association with the Sir George Alleyne Chronic Disease Research Centre in 2015, spurred at least one local insurance company to make a determined effort to help combat this situation by taking a health and wellness programme directly to its corporate clients.
Today, Sagicor Life Inc. officially introduced a Medical Mobile Unit to its fleet, which, according to Executive Vice President and General Manager of Barbados Operations, Edward Clarke, “is the first phase of a programme our Group Life and Health Department will be offering to our clients, aimed at helping their human resources departments achieve their company’s wellness goals. With this unit, we will be providing on-site counselling, education and health checks to our customers and their employees.”
Naturally, the majority of those suffering from the CNCDs are of working age, and as Clarke pointed out, “Illness can lead to absenteeism, presenteeism and in some cases, death. It also hampers a person’s ability to do their job, earn an income and support their family, which in turn puts a strain on the economy owing to lost days of productivity, and increased health care costs.”
Clarke stated that there would be a nurse on board the bus at all times, but “given the busy schedule of doctors, we cannot have one on board full time. However, we have a team of doctors and exercise specialists and based on requests from clients, they will go out on our outreach programmes. And as this programme grows and we receive more feedback from our clients, we will operate accordingly.”
The bus is the third such vehicle manufactured locally at L & N Workshop, following two similar buses the company built for the Barbados Diabetes Association and another focusing on HIV/AIDS for the Ministry of Transport and Works.
Managing Director of L & N Workshop, Norman Edwards, said “this bus costs about $200,000, and so far we have had good reports on the other ones we have in operation. We were very glad Sagicor approached us as a corporate citizen on this matter, and we hope this vehicle will go a long way in helping Barbadians to monitor and prevent the occurrence of hypertension and diabetes.”