Combating cardiovascular diseases through nutrition in the Caribbean

Combating cardiovascular diseases through nutrition in the Caribbean

Designing effective educational programmes and material to prevent cardiovascular disease in the Caribbean

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) has become the leading cause of death across the Caribbean in the last decade. However, it is recognised that nutrition and physical activity can play a great role in the prevention and management of cardiovascular disease. This study investigates the specific needs for physical activity and dietary education in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease in the Caribbean.

Based on a qualitative research conducted in four Caribbean countries (Bahamas, Grenada, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago) and using group discussions, the research focuses on four broad areas:

  • understanding the term "cardiovascular diseases"
  • foods and their relationship to cardiovascular diseases
  • obesity, physical activity and relationship to CVD
  • sources and preferences of health information.

The main findings that emerge from the responses in the four countries indicate that:

  • participant's knowledge about the pertinent issues is superficial and not deep enough to empower them to take action
  • there is a good understanding of the term "cardiovascular diseases", but a less clear understanding of the conditions that make up the disease
  • there is ambiguity about the role of exercise and diet
  • there is a good understanding of foods and food products which are protective of CVD
  • the public has information as to how to prevent obesity but has problems putting this knowledge into practice
  • the main sources of health information are health professionals and the print and electronic media.

Based on the previous results, the study recommends the following issues to be taken into consideration when developing education materials on physical activity and diet for the prevention and management of cardiovascular diseases in the Caribbean:

  • clearly explaining medical terms when targeting the general public
  • providing information on health conditions, risk factors and symptoms
  • removing the negative perceptions surrounding some foods
  • providing guidance on how to prepare healthy and tasty meals
  • developing efficacy skills to enable individuals to move from the knowledge level to behavior
  • offering practical advice on how to increase physical activity at the individual level
  • providing user-friendly, easy to read and illustrative education materials and offering visual and interactive educational programmes.
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