Hundreds turn out for health screening, while founder promises bigger next year

By Monique Washington and Zoe Beneidito Observer Intern

Hundreds of Nevisians and visitors to the island of Nevis took advantage of a free health screening hosted by a U.S non-profit organization, Barrels of Change, under the theme “Change for Health.”

The event was held Friday in collaboration with the Nevis Health Promotion unit at the St. Paul’s Anglican Church. Doctors, nurses, and nutritionists were on hand in educating participants on living a healthier lifestyle.

Representatives of the Observer attended the event and spoke with the founder of Barrel of Change, Kechelsa Rawlins, who is of Nevisian descent.

Rawlins explained why Nevis was chosen to host such an event: “I am American, but my family is from Nevis, so it made sense that when I started to embark on such a project that I turn toward Nevis because it’s like a second home to me,” she said. “We aim to bring medical supply and resources to communities that have health disparities such as Nevis, West Indies, so what we’re doing here today, we are putting on our first-ever health fair and we’ll plan to do it every year. This year we offer[ed] free health and dental screening, free HIV[testing], and syphilis and hepatitis B and C testing. We also [had] some educational workshops. We’re focusing on educating people on creative measures to chang[e] their life style choices.”

She said that they were doing “a whole body approach and one of the things that we’re focus[ed] on is healthier eating habits because by doing that you can prevent certain medical diseases. We are big on preventive measures, so that’s why we [had] nutritious and a chief [there] to teach people how to cook healthier and how to eat healthier to prevent things like diabetes and high pretension.”

“We do partner along with the hospitals, so were working alongside with them so all results are going to stay within Nevis and follow up will be done in Nevis as well,” she said. “So, Nevis does have resources in place. They have HIV units that we work alongside with these people going forward and we will collaborate with them in the future.”

Rawlins said that the event went very well and she was very satisfied with the turn out.

Shelagh James, the educator coordinator at the Health Promotion Unit, pointed out that they are working in collaboration with Barrel for Change and noted that one of the good things about this organization is that it is “bringing new ideas into the Ministry of Health in the approach to health and better health and welfare and change for [people].And a positive thing about the days event was that you learned so much from it. If you didn’t know you have a condition, today [was] the day you would find out.”

James explained the importance of having a fair such as this during the Culturama season.

“I think it is important to have it this time of the year,” she said. “This time of the year people tend to be less careful because of the alcohol influence. You make bad decisions, bad choices and it only takes a second to make that error, then that’s it. We are hoping that people will lock on to the idea through festivals; this is the high point of risk, where people really need to take note as to what is there to prevent incidences of STI and other things like HIV.”

She said that the day’s event did not target a certain number of people nor did it target a certain age group.

“We don’t have limits….when it is health it is health,” she said. “A cross sector of ages attended [because good] health just doesn’t pertain to old people. With noncommunicable [disease], you tend to think elderly people, but you get a cross range of young people sometimes. Young people have diabetes that go undetected for years, until the crisis kicks in [and] then it surfaces. We care for everybody [in] all age groups “

Founder Rawlins said that the health fair will be an annual event in Nevis during the Culturama season.

“Each year we should be growing and expanding, so this year we’re just focusing on basic screening [and] educating people on preventive measures,” she said, “but I do want to expand it going forward. I do want to be able to do prostate screening, genetic testing and things of that nature, so we’re starting small, but we definitely will get bigger.”