Various physical examinations, nutritionist advice and product giveaways will be among the attractions at this year's third annual Nestle Health Fair and 5K, on May 2, during which the focus will be on obesity, T&T's most prevalent non-communicable disease (NCD).
Once again, the health fair and the start of the 5K will take place at the Grand Stand, Queen's Park Savannah, where thousands are expected to gather.
The race, which runs off at 4 pm, will offer over $13,000 in cash prizes and organisers are hoping that over 2,500 runners challenge the 3.1 mile course. The health fair opens to the public at 2 pm. For the past two years, Nestle hosted the event with a specific theme, starting in 2013 with an emphasis on diabetes and then last year with a focus on cancer/cancer related diseases, both of which, like obesity, are major public health concerns in this country.
But, while the handsome prizes are open to the top finishers, "it is not really a race; it is a participation," said Francis Williams-Smith, one of the race organisers, who wants to see all participants cross the finish line.
Selma Hodge, a nutritionist at the T&T Association of Dietitians, gave the feature address during which she offered insight into obesity as it affects the lives of T&T citizens, privately and in the workplace.
Hodge reminded the gathering of a 2013 newspaper article, which quoted the Ministry of Health as saying that T&T, at the time, was ranked "the third fattest country in the world, behind Kuwait and the USA".
Over the past couple years, T&T's placement on the list of most obese nations has varied depending on the study and publication, but there is no disputing that those positions have consistently been among the worst.
Last year, this Government took out a $110 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) for the purpose of initiating programmes to prevent and control risk factors of chronic diseases among adults, as well as primary and secondary school students.
"Many were alarmed," Hodge said in reference to the Ministry of Health's assertions in 2013, adding, "The article shared that approximately 60 per cent of our population was overweight or obese, and that 30 per cent of children under the age of 15 were obese. And, this was linked to diet, particularly fast food."
"We know too that overweight and obesity are linked to chronic diseases. Among them, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. It is also now generally accepted that being obese affects productivity and can be an obstruction to achieving one's professional goals."
"Obesity is on the rise and can cause losses to both employer and employee," she said. "Studies indicate that obese workers have higher absenteeism rates compared to healthier workers, a factor that directly affects productivity."
On that note, Hodge encouraged companies to facilitate wellness programmes for their benefit and for the employees.
"Research done by Duke University in the US showed that the overweight and obese are more prone to work injuries, and take more sick days that their healthier counterparts."
She suggested that companies assist in promoting the well-being of their employees in the workplace by: encouraging exercise-subsidized gym memberships or providing an exercise facility on the compound; providing doctors, nurses and dietitians for on-site clinics; offering financial or other incentives to encourage healthy behaviours; offering healthy meals/snacks; offering mental health programmes; offering weight loss/stress management programmes (cessation programmes for alcohol and tobacco); and creating awareness by using posters/leaflets in employee-centred areas."
Hodge thanked the sponsor, Nestle for its foresight in reducing the added-sugar content in many of its products. On May 2, among other things, the heath fair will offer bone density testing, blood pressure, sugar levels, mammograms and eye examinations.
The booth holders include the Cancer Society, Family Planning Association, YMCA, the Diabetes Association of T&T, T&T Heart Foundation, the Ministry of Health and Optometrist Today.
Body mass index testing, nutrition and dietary consultations as well as Nestle product samples will also be available within the booths. Those who wish to register for the 5K can do so at any Kenny's Sport Centre outlet nationwide at a cost of $55, which includes a t-shirt.