Ministry of Health lauds Reggae Marathon & Running Events for Impact on Jamaica’s Wellness Culture

Ministry of Health lauds Reggae Marathon & Running Events for Impact on Jamaica’s Wellness Culture

Photos courtesy: Reggae Marathon

With the recent launch of this year’s Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K, Takese Foga, Director of Health Promotion and Education at the Ministry of Health & Wellness (MOHW), emphasized the influence Running Events Jamaica has had on promoting health and wellness across the island. The Reggae Marathon, now in its 24th year and organized by the Jamdammers Running Club of Kingston in association with Running Events Jamaica, will be held on December 8th in Negril. This event marks the highlight of another year filled with numerous impactful races orchestrated by Running Events Jamaica, Foga noted.

Undoubtedly, exercise has become increasingly popular in Jamaica. On any early morning you’ll find the streets of the country’s major municipalities full of walkers and joggers. According to Foga, the transformation in Jamaica’s health culture began in the early 2000s in response to the first Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey which highlighted NCDs as a major concern. The MOHW began spearheading initiatives to promote healthy eating, physical activity, and regular health screenings, which became more popular with the launch of Jamaica Moves. Running Events Jamaica emerged as a key partner in these efforts, she said, helping to popularize road races across the island. Eventually, before the COVID-19 pandemic, walk/run events had become a regular weekend activity, reflecting the growing public interest in fitness.

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For over 20 years, Running Events Jamaica has been promoting a healthy lifestyle through running, connecting communities, fostering national pride in health and exercise, and building hope for underserved citizens. Their extensive portfolio of races, including collaborations with various organizations, has also facilitated public education on health issues. Specialized events, such as walk-runs for prostate and breast cancer awareness, for example, have integrated health education and emphasized the importance of preventive measures.

Based on the country’s health landscape, prevention is a key message for public health awareness, Foga said. According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases, and cancers, are responsible for 80% of deaths in Jamaica. Also, the MOHW’s most recent Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey revealed that one in three Jamaicans has hypertension, one in two is overweight or obese, and one in eight has diabetes. 

Foga underscored the importance of walk/runs as part of the national strategy to address the prevalence of NCDs by increasing participation in physical activity island wide. “Events like the Reggae Marathon have been crucial in addressing physical inactivity, which is a major behavioral risk factor for NCDs,” she stated. “MOHW’s collaboration with Running Events Jamaica and Reggae Marathon has facilitated a broader focus on health promotion, leading to an increase in community-based fitness activities and greater public awareness of health issues.”

These races are not only about physical health, but also mental well-being, Foga said. “The communal aspect, the release of stress, and the overall joy of participating, contribute to a holistic approach to health.” The Reggae Marathon, as the organization’s pinnacle event, encapsulates this ethos, bringing together tourists and locals alike in a celebration of fitness and culture.

Renowned for its blend of athleticism and vibrant Jamaican culture, the Reggae Marathon is held on a scenic, IAAF-certified course, infused with the energizing rhythms of reggae music. This year’s edition will feature a new 5K race alongside the traditional 10K and half marathon races, broadening its appeal and accessibility. Additionally, a virtual race option allows individuals worldwide to join in the celebration of health and wellness. 

Foga said that the MOHW is pleased to have worked with Running Events Jamaica throughout the years, acknowledging their shared dedication to the population’s health and wellness. By extension, the Reggae Marathon, she said, stands as a testament to their efforts, showcasing the transformative power of such initiatives in assisting to improve public health outcomes.

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