In recent times there has been more emphasis being placed on health and wellness, so much so that the present Government, when it secured the reins of power almost one year ago, created a ministry with that very title. This was thought to be a step in the right direction, given this country’s myriad health challenges, particularly in respect of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and cancers.
So without a doubt there is a need to focus on not only health, but wellness, as the two are separate and distinct concepts. Health is said to be a state of being and wellness is a state of living a healthy lifestyle. As defined by the World Health Organisation, “wellness is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”.
Now a look at the website of the United States-based National Wellness Institute breaks wellness down into six categories – emotional, occupational, physical, spiritual, intellectual and social – and here in Barbados we have recently created a National Workplace Wellness Policy, divided into nine dimensions – physical, psychological, environmental, social, intellectual, occupational, spiritual, cultural and financial wellness. What is clear, is that wellness is not solely connected to health, but achieving optimal health does indeed play a major role in achieving wellness.
Indeed, it is pleasing to see that this National Workplace Wellness Policy has been crafted, and it is certainly hoped that in the months and years to come, it is embraced by all workplaces. The fact is that people generally spend at least one-third of their time at work, this therefore makes the workplace the perfect space in which to execute measures that can help to change behaviours for the better. What we require is for our workplaces to be enabling environments where employees can practise healthy eating and be physically active, so that they can create a good work life balance. Employers should be seeking to encourage after work exercise programmes or even provide incentives to their employees to remain physically active. A focus on the health and wellness of employees is just as important as providing training for them, as that can also help to boost productivity and increase the profits.
Since the policy is not mandatory, it cannot be forced upon businesses, but we nevertheless hope that the business community will realise that there are benefits to be had from taking the policy on board in their respective environments. If embraced by Government and the private sector alike, it should reach a wide cross section of the country, and will hopefully bring about changes in their behaviours that will translate into their personal lives and to those they come into contact with. We could at the end of the day see overall improvements in the health and well-being of our people. This country definitely needs that, given the ranking received recently on the Indigo Wellness Index as the fifth unhealthiest country in the world.
On another note, though not that far removed from the topic, the authors must be commended for including financial wellness on the list; this is especially important as we face the months and years ahead.
The pressure put on the country as a result of the efforts being made to get the economy back on track has resulted in many persons in both the public and private sectors being put on the breadline. Others in the private sector, though remaining employed, have had their hours of work cut, which means less money in their hands.
Added to that we have had increases in taxes and are soon to see an increase in bus fare – all this is creating a considerable amount of financial stress and strain that should not be ignored, and companies too have a responsibility to help their employees in this respect.