Written by Jewel Edwards, Gacintha Deveaux-Gordon and Azaleta Ishmael-Newry

Eleuthera, Bahamas – The One Eleuthera Foundation (OEF) and their partners successfully hosted their first ever Health and Wellness Symposium on Eleuthera in conjunction with major sponsors, like the Cancer Society of Eleuthera and Family Medicine Center to promote health and wellness on the island. 

“The One Eleuthera Foundation and our partners have committed to help strengthen the health care sector for Eleuthera and also focus on the wellness of the people.  This initiative is one of the strategic projects that reflects our mission to address health and wellness on Eleuthera; from coordination of research, policy development and strategic planning,” said Craig Symonette, Chairman of the One Eleuthera Foundation.

The 3 day “Pathway to Wellness-Reversing the Trends” symposium received overwhelming response from the Ministry of Health, medical doctors, nurses, and leaders from the private and public sectors. Attendees included local, national and international persons as well as partners from The Bahamas National Trust and Island School.  

The announcement of the latest findings regarding breast cancer in Bahamian women, how we can prevent cancer cells by starving them and discussions on non-communicable diseases and how we could reverse the trends were highlighted.

Outstanding contributions were made during discussions by the following presenters: Juanita Pinder, Cancer Society of Eleuthera, Dr Pearl McMillan, Department of Public Health, Barry Rassin, Doctor’s Hospital, Caroline Coburn, Emory University School of Nursing, Dr Graham Cates and Nurse Anita Cates, Family Medicine Center, Dr Gregory Carey, University of Maryland, Dr Indira Carey, Roche Applied Science in Maryland, Dr Reginald Carey, Ladies Medical Center, Kathryn Johnston, Ministry of Health, Veronica Duncanson, Marathon Bahamas and Nurses Sherrin Cooper, Regina Ingraham, Bernadette Colebrooke and Bianca Edwards of Eleuthera.

It has been substantiated that The Bahamas is at a critical mass and there is an urgency to address alarming rates of AIDS/HIV and Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes (sugar), hypertension (high blood pressure) and cancers.  “It is beyond talk and now action must take place,” said Dr Pearl McMillan, director of the Department of Public Health.  

In September 2011, the World Health Organization deemed that NCDs were at epidemic proportions and called for action from world leaders.  The former Prime Minister of The Bahamas, Hubert Ingraham stated, “Sixty percent of all deaths in our country are a result of NCDs and account for half of all deaths of people 45 and older.  NCDs have also placed a strain on health resources and affect half the patient population in the hospital.”

Dr McMillian elaborated on the the health crisis in The Bahamas and provided statistics on the various illnesses and trends. “In order to address this matter effectively, Bahamians must step up their efforts and be proactive and ideally, prevention is the best approach to the crisis.” 

The Pathway to Wellness weekend began with a welcome reception and overview of the Symposium’s purpose and premise by One Eleuthera Foundation CEO and director, Shaun Ingraham.  “The goal of the OEF and our partners in addressing health and wellness issues is to become a catalyst for positive health and wellness transformation, locally and nationally.”  Ingraham commended Emory University for their work on Eleuthera and indicated that the Institution has been the backbone of health and wellness research and development on the island for more than a decade.  They have also played an important role in gathering information for local and international research.

Throughout the conference, the CEO of the One Eleuthera Foundation continually emphasized the importance of a concerted effort among OEF partners and local and national leaders to remedy the health and wellness issues of Eleuthera and The Bahamas.  He acknowledged the effort of Bahamians in preserving their spiritual health, but also recognized their inability to balance this spirituality with the maintenance of their physical health. An Eleutheran himself, Shaun Ingraham further challenged that the people of Eleuthera must lead in this initiative if the work put into health and wellness improvements are going to be effective in proactively addressing the current concerns.   

Major sponsors, Dr Graham Cates and Nurse Anita Cates of Family Medicine Center, led the symposium participants on a wellness journey highlighting the 5 dimensions of wellness:  Physical, emotional, spiritual, financial and social. “We must always get involved individually because wellness starts with each of us and take responsibility of our individual journey,” said Dr Cates. He further stressed that as people begin to change, others will follow. Nurse Cates heralded the message of balance and understanding where we are all in a spiritual journey, noting that the values we hold turn into action.

Health and wellness challenges encompassing the health care system and individuals, include an alarming influx of NCDs, inadequate screening equipment, limited medical personnel, minimal public awareness, insufficient funding for programs already in place and the inability to conduct continued patient follow-ups. Inaugural solutions comprise the establishment of a Secretariat, underwriting existing programs, increasing research to support on-going efforts for cures, the implementation and encouragement of holistic health (i.e. the mind, body, spirit approach addressed by Family Medicine Centre) and always keeping health and wellness at the forefront. 

Dr Indira Carey of Roche Applied Science, a division of Roche Diagnistics (US), highlighted research conducted by Dr Judith Hurley from the University of Miami which indicated that BRCA 1 (breast cancer gene) and BRCA 2 gene mutations are found in 23 percent of women with breast cancer in The Bahamas, compared with 3 to 5 percent in the United States; the highest incidence rate globally. Dr Indira Carey emphasized the significant benefits of consuming vegetables such as spinach, kale, broccoli and pumpkin to reduce the risk of high levels of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) which causes breaks in DNA and could result in cancer. The urgency of conducting research in places like Grand Bahama and James Cistern, Eleuthera to determine if genetic or environmental agents are driving the high rate of these cancer mutations, so that measures can be taken to decrease this alarming statistic, was suggested by Dr Gregory Carey of the University of Maryland. 

All participants left the conference with a greater understanding of the vast amount of work that has to be channelled toward achieving the determined goals. With a focused collaborative effort, the One Eleuthera Foundation and their partners will accomplish much as Eleuthera will continue to be a prototype and leader for Health and Wellness for other islands and nations.  

The weekend symposium ended with an early morning exercise for those who participated in the “Walk 4A Cure,” which was held in Tarpum Bay. Follow-up efforts are now in place to address and action the items coming out of this historic health and wellness symposium. For more information please visit the One Eleuthera website at www.oneeleuthera.org or contact them via email at info@oneeleuthera.org or by phone at 242-334-4630. 

The One Eleuthera Foundation is a non-profit organization whose premise is “strengthening, connection and planning.” It was founded to identify and invest in unique, high-quality projects that strengthen Eleuthera’s communities and further the economic, environmental, and social development of the island.   We represent a gathering of professionals and organizations that share a commitment to a future that is built on the responsible development of our island’s many assets. 

Click here Welcome Reception photos 

Click her for photos from Friday’s Sessions

Click here for Walk 4A Cure Photos