Non-Communicable Disease Month

As the month of July is National NCD Month, it has been a busy one for me! Over the past few months I have become very busy with a variety of projects and almost forgotten that the original reason I am even here in Fiji is to work on a Health Empowerment Project and in particular to raise awareness about NCD’s; therefore, when Sheemal, the village nurse, informed me that July was National NDC Month, I decided to go all out. Individually and along side the nurse, I organized several events and programs to do as much education as possible this month.

On the first of the month, Sheemal and I took all the vitals of the teachers and their spouses. We looked at their blood pressure, blood sugar, height and weight, and in turn calculated their BMI. A shockingly high number of the teachers and spouses were in the overweight category and many had very high blood pressure and blood sugar. We were able to educate them on the types of foods they should be avoiding and about the importance of physical activity. I then created a month long competition for the teachers to award points for the organized sports I have been putting on daily such as volleyball, zumba, morning walks and other sports programs. At the end of the month, Sheemal and I will take the same vitals again to award points to those who were able to lower their blood pressure, weight and blood sugar level during the month of July. There will be a prize for the winner! I am so impressed by the enthusiasm the teachers have shown. They have been getting really into the competition, are walking every morning at 5 am, and are making a habit out of afternoon activities. It is so rewarding to see!!

For the village and island, Sheemal and I have organized 3 big sports days. On the 3rd of July, we involved the village of Yalobi in a giant sports day. There were 4 men’s teams and 4 women’s teams. All teams participated in tackle rugby, volleyball and netball, and it was a riot! My team name was TEAM USA! Before the big competition, I went to the mainland to purchase USA flag sunglasses, red and white lays, and headbands for the team. We also bought a banner to decorate for our team. Even though my team probably had most of the spirit, we didn’t win any of the games. I thought we were the favored team for rugby, but that was before I started playing and realized how much smaller my young quick teammates were than the women we were playing against. Most of the women we played were 180 lbs. plus. If we received that ball far away from them (which is a little hard to do because you can only pass backward in rugby) then we were able to out run them, but if we got tackled, that was the end. It was so exhausting trying to wrestle with our large opponents…. I was completely exhausted by the end and the next morning woke up with bruises covering my legs. It felt like I had been hit by a train! Regardless of our loss, we all had a great time!

The next sports day was for the kids. We had them bob for apples, participate in sack races, take part in three-legged races, and other fun activities. We handed out health promoting prizes such as apples, jump ropes, tennis balls, etc.

The final sports day will take place on the 25th of July. This one is going to be large and will involve all 7 villages and 2 islands in her coverage area. We are expecting a big turn out and so are only going to include rugby for the men, netball for the women and mixed gender volleyball. It sounds like the youth are getting very excited about the event! We are charging a small entrance fee and allotting the money to the winning team!

Sheemal wrote a grant to the Ministry of Health and was able to receive enough money for us to purchase boat fuel to visit the 7 villages and 2 islands she is responsible for. We started last week with outreach to look at people’s height, weight (BMI), blood pressure and blood sugar. In a normal year, Sheemal visits each of these villages one time but is always very busy seeing sick patients, giving injects and doing baby clinics that she never has time to take these vitals for patients who think they are healthy, and never has time to talk to them individually about how they can improve their health such as lowering their blood pressure. This is why our outreach is so important! Every Thursday and Friday of this month, we will be visiting one of the 7 villages to conduct said outreach. I am excited to spend time getting to know the people living across the island as most of my time is spend here in Yalobi.

In addition, we have been collaborating with the Ministry of Youth and Sport. They sponsored 7 tickets for youth to take a trip on the Yasawa Flyer (the big yellow tourist boat) all the way up to the top of the Yasawas and back. Sheemal and I put together a simple quiz about NCD’s to determine the 7 lucky winners. After completing the quiz, we had 7 excited youth who are looking forward to this trip.

On top of this NCD work, I am continuing with my normal classes, literacy program and working with girl guides, so overall, I am very very busy this month but am really enjoying this slight change of pace. I am appreciating the outreach as well as the daily teachers activity program. The zumba has been quite a hit!!

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