By Marina Hilaire-Bartlett – PSI-Caribbean Strategy and Resource Director
The burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, hypertension, various cancers and respiratory disease continues to take a significant toll in Trinidad and Tobago. Two thirds of NCD-related deaths are related to lifestyle habits, including lack of exercise, harmful alcohol & tobacco use and unhealthy diets. Since these habits often start in adolescence and early adulthood, working one-on-one with adolescents to instill and enforce positive lifestyle choices early is key to prevention of NCD.
With this in mind, PSI-Caribbean and local partners developed the CORE program to address non-communicable diseases in Trinidad & Tobago and throughout the Caribbean. With support from The JB Fernandes Memorial Trust I, working through local partners the community-based program supports young people to make healthy lifestyle choices through regular exercise and nutrition. The program works with a local psychologist to support young people in making healthy lifestyle choices around tobacco use and alcohol use, as well as understanding emotions and self-esteem issues.
The CORE curriculum teaches young people how to turn healthy decisions into healthy behaviors over time.
The PSI-Caribbean team first conducted a landscaping exercise to identify opportunities, potential partners, and national stakeholders already working with youth in NCD prevention in Trinidad. In year 2, the team collaborated with a local partner, Movement Mechanics, to develop a holistic 8-week program. The program highlights the importance of food as fuel (healthy eating and nutrition), body movement (exercise and weight management), and psychological support (addressing stress management, decision making and self-confidence). While the program was originally intended to focus on young people between the ages of 13-16 years, persons from aged 10-19 years attended sessions, which provided insight into the possible age ranges that the program could be implemented with.
Following this program, PSI-Caribbean calls for the public and private sector to invest in prevention methods that have intergenerational impact. A comprehensive approach that meets people where they are, taking into consideration the various social determinants that impact behavioral choices, will lead to optimal outcomes for those the community of practice serves.
To learn more about the CORE project, including access to resources and case studies, visit psi.org/core.