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Cultural shift necessary

Health official says pride in a clean Jamaica should be instilled from early

Observer staff reporter

Monday, June 18, 2018

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Chairman of the Southern Regional Health Authority (SRHA) Wayne Chen wants a “revolutionary” approach to building a culture of cleanliness among Jamaicans.

Chen told an environmental health forum in Mandeville last week that there should be a long-term programme targeting schoolchildren to keep the environment clean and healthy.

“You can have a generational or inter-generational revolution if we prepare our young people properly,” Chen told an inaugural exposition hosted by public health inspectors attached to the Environmental Health Unit of the Manchester Health Services.

“I want to see the day when every young person going through school in Jamaica are sensitised to their responsibility as citizens to keep a clean, safe and healthy environment. It is something that we will have to embed into the school curriculum. Even if the parents are not socialising the students properly, it can be done through the schools. Much as we can teach our children to sing and dance… we can teach them to be each other's keepers in keeping a safe and healthy environment,” Chen appealed, while adding that “there are growing concerns at all levels of the Jamaican society regarding the careless disposal of waste in public spaces, with many people seemingly unaware or uncaring of the effect on the natural environment and public health.”

Chen said that while there had been some improvement in public attitudes, much more needs to be done to achieve appropriate levels of cleanliness.

“A big part of what we will have to do is we will have to effect a cultural change. We need to move beyond slogans and billboards like 'Nuh Dutty Up Jamaica,” said Chen.

“We need to have that culture where we pride ourselves on a clean society. There is incremental change but I believe that from time to time we can have much bigger changes, revolutionary changes, and it don't need violence and noise to have a revolutionary [change],” he added.

Chen noted that in Manchester there are only 26 inspectors engaged in the daily task of ensuring the well-being of over 100,000 “independent-minded” residents.

Organisers of the exposition said the aim was to give the public a better understanding of the work that public health inspectors do; for the public to be able to recognise them as they work within communities; prevent the discomfort some residents and business operators experience when public inspectors visit; help to develop an understanding that the work of health inspectors is intended to bring health issues up to the required standard; empower residents to want to consistently maintain standards; and to let them know that the option of closing down establishments is a last resort.

Chen argued that some categories of health care workers, such as public health inspectors, do not often get enough recognition.

“Whenever we talk about our fantastic health care workers in Jamaica, people talk about nurses and there is a great deal of public sentiment for nurses they talk about doctors and there is a great deal of public sentiment for doctors and then it stops right there. We do not talk enough about all the others in public health in Jamaica who have been making a terrific contribution,” he said.

The SRHA Chairman went on to say that improving the mind — set of the public about how they think about different aspects of their environment will also open a wider door for the “small man” in business.

“I [have always been] and is still a believer in street food, and I believe that the small man must have a place in the bigger business environment in terms of public vending of food, but you have to maintain some basic standards,” he said.

Michael Bent, regional director for the Southern Regional Health Authority which covers Manchester, St Elizabeth and Clarendon, lauded the event organised by the public health inspectors as a creative way to reach the public.

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