Antigua Gets Active – Moving Towards Active Communities

by Ian Pitts

Antigua Gets ActiveAntigua gets active and moving towards active communities, two think tank events facilitated by former HCC Intern Project Assistant Danielle Walwyn were held in Antigua on March 1st and April 8th, 2019.  Both meetings engaged key stakeholders including teachers, coaches, representatives from social groups, the national Olympic committee, personal trainers, fitness instructors as well as representatives from the Antiguan Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Wellness and Environment, Medical Benefits Scheme, nutritionists and academic researchers.

These meetings provided an opportunity for experts in the field to discuss health-related concerns, specifically surrounding physical activity. Extended conversations were had about physical inactivity among youth and how some of these challenges can be overcome or explored further. Insufficient physical activity is a critical modifiable risk factor of NCD prevention and control which continues to be a massive burden in our societies. However, it is often ignored.

Strategies to better integrate physical activity into our lives to create active communities are urgently needed, especially for youth. The recent WHO Global Action Plan on Physical Activity 2018 – 2030 suggests that intersectoral partnerships are critical to achieving improved health. The collaborative nature of these meetings parallels this recommendation.

Danielle Walwyn is currently completing her Master of Science degree in health promotion with a focus on physical activity at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. The main purpose of her research is to explore the physical activity context (opportunities, policy and physical environment) within the secondary school setting in Antigua. She completed her data collection in 9 secondary schools in Antigua during October to November 2018. As a result of her research, she now has a better understanding of the physical features within a Caribbean secondary school environment that may support physical activity. Additionally, she was able to explore and discuss the particular barriers and facilitators of engaging in physical activity through the eyes of Antiguan physical education teachers and students.

In addition to her research, on two separate occasions, Danielle met with key stakeholders who have the capacity to influence the physical activity context in Antigua. On March 1st 2019, Danielle facilitated a think tank event called Antigua Gets Active at the Antigua Athletic Club and invited community members to discuss the key barriers and facilitators to engaging in physical activity. Attendees included social club members, fitness instructors, teachers, youth sport coaches, representatives from the national Olympic committee and the like. One of the key messages that arose from the meeting is the need to educate the public on the benefits of physical activity through social media campaigns and using local celebrity champions.

In April, Danielle returned to Antigua to facilitate a research-based think tank meeting at the American University of Antigua. This meeting was funded by the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR PCS-161810). Attendees included representatives from the Ministries of Education and Health, Wellness and the Environment, the Medical Benefits Scheme, PAHO, American University of Antigua, counselling psychologists, secondary school P.E. instructors, nutritionists and dieticians and researchers from Canada and the USA. The event began with an official welcome by Danielle who highlighted that the purpose of the event was to bring together key stakeholders and experts to discuss the nutrition, physical activity and mental health contexts within schools in Antigua. Another purpose was to discuss any additional relevant concerns that affect youth and suggest ways in which research could potentially help to alleviate or explore some of these concerns. Experts in the school nutrition, physical activity and mental health contexts in Antigua were invited to deliver 15-20-minute presentations with 5 minutes allotted for questions.

Danielle led a fit break in between the presentations and the meeting culminated with a discussion. The attendees discussed a plethora of topics that ranged from successful research projects in Antigua to the influence of screen time on youth. Other points of discussion included the need for more “home grown” projects to ensure program sustainability, to plan for program evaluation at the outset of the project, the importance of efficient data collection and intersectoral collaboration moving forward. Next steps are to develop a research funding proposal for submission to CIHR and to secure funding for key stakeholders to meet and collaborate on how to continue to provide health promoting opportunities for the youth of Antigua.

Please feel free to contact Danielle Walwyn at 0ddw@queensu.ca if you have any questions or concerns.

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