One of the stark consequences to the COVID-19 pandemic has been the bright spotlight it has placed on the impact of Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) on Barbadians.
The viral illness has had severe implications for persons suffering from NCDs, with deaths among elderly patients being comparatively high to those who do not have a medical history of heart disease, cancer or diabetes.
One local organization that is often on the frontline in helping Barbadians deal with their cardiac problems, as well educating them on the best ways in which they should eat and exercise to maintain a healthier life, is the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
During a recent interview with Barbados TODAY,
CEO of the Foundation, Michelle Daniel, gave a deeper insight into how the organization was first made aware of COVID-19 in the earlier part of 2020, and how the foundation has adapted to the challenge of still serving its clients during these uncertain times.
“What transpired, was that the Wednesday after the [charity polo fundraiser] event that we had [in March], we made the decision to close our doors to external clients.
“During that time, both from the Medical Director’s perspective in terms of our Rehabilitation Department, our administration coordinator and at the board level, would have been speaking among ourselves to understand what are our next steps, and where do we stand in terms of our operations.
“One of the things that came out of that which is a good thing, was that we knew we had to continue some form of care to our most critical patients within the Cardiac Preventative and Rehabilitation Department, and so our home-based cardiac rehab was put into place during the period,” Daniel explained.
With most of the programmes on offer from the foundation, being based mostly on in-person interactions, the use of online services for clients has been embraced in a big way for the non-profit organisation.
“We have had to move a lot of our services online – for the youth gym, for the children since they would have been a vulnerable group as well, we had to put that on pause but they too found a way to innovate in terms of having sessions online [with] us keeping in contact with the parents and students via WhatsApp. We also continued the nutrition sessions, which is part of the youth gym programme, having those online as well with virtual sessions.
“The idea was for Heart and Stroke to find a way to continue to serve its clients. We are not a gym, we are a quasi-medical facility – so we could not come to a standstill, but look for ways to stay functioning, even at a reduced state,” she said.
With NCDs being one of the main factors in COVID-19 positive persons experiencing more severe symptoms, Daniel hopes that the importance of living a healthy lifestyle is being noticed by more Barbadians, especially those already living with an NCD.
“That is one of our mandates – heightening public awareness in terms of NCDs. Whether its cardiac problems, strokes, heart attacks and diabetes, and in terms of many of the clients having other underlying conditions. This has been at the forefront of the Heart and Stroke’s messaging for many years. We are committed to reaching the public in terms of their understanding, of what it means if you do have a condition or not, you may have a family member who does. It’s why you hear us emphasizing on why Barbadians should have a healthy nutrition.
“It’s the reason why we exist. To make a difference in the lives of people, not just our internal clients, but the nation of Barbados in terms of how you treat persons living with NCDs, and how you should minimize, or avoid developing an NCD,” Daniel added. (SB)