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The medical officer beams when she speaks of her brainchild, the
MBS’s School Outreach programme. She says the project, started in
2006, educates children and their families about healthy nutrition and
physical activity, to prevent and control chronic diseases.
“What’s quite shocking, and a bit difficult to comprehend for some,
is that chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes have been
discovered in school aged children,” she says, adding that “If this
problem is not addressed now, 20 years into the future, these children
(as adults) will represent a huge debt burden on the society.”
The six-phase programme includes collecting socio-economic and
health information on students and their communities, and analysis of Employer Obligations
this data, where information on high risk students is gleaned, creating
a target group for further intervention and guidance.
Are all employers required
Interventions are educational, where students are counselled on health
and nutrition through a series of 10 interactive lessons, and physical,
to register with the
where the target group is exposed to two extra hours of activity each
Medical Benef_its Scheme?
week. An evening programme is also available to parents.
Yes. All employers in Antigua and Barbuda, who employ
Success is determined by continuous monitoring and evaluation.
individuals on a full or part time basis or by contract,
Asked about the outcomes of the programme, which runs throughout
are required by law to be registered at the Medical
the school year, Dr Walwyn-Venugopal says, “We’ve seen significant
improvements with the target groups, which include weight loss, and
Benef_its Scheme and to also pay weekly, bi-weekly or
blood pressure levels.” monthly contributions on behalf of their employees.
Although working with scarce resources, she says MBS hopes to
expand the programme into other schools quite soon. Eight schools
How do employers register
have participated in the project in its two-year existence, with another
five slated to come on board during the next school term. with the Medical Benef_its
According to the medical officer, Antigua and Barbuda is a pioneer Scheme?
in this type of research, since except for St Lucia, which carried out a
To facilitate registration, employers are required to visit
similar study with students, no other Caribbean country is conducting
the of_f_ices of the Medical Benef_its Scheme and to
this type of study.
present to the Customer Service Representative their
With human resources considered one of a company’s most valuable
Employer Registration Certif_icate (Business Licence). A
assets, MBS has introduced another preventative care programme
called the Employee Wellness Programme (EWP), which aims to
registration form will then be completed and a Medical
improve employees’ health by addressing lifestyle related risk factors for
Benef_its Scheme employer registration number will be
chronic diseases.
issued to the employer. T_he registration number must be
As touted on the MBS website: “By providing sound medical and
quoted on all subsequent documents or forms submitted
nutritional information in an interactive form, along with food to the Medical Benef_its Scheme.
demonstrations and physical exercise classes, the EWP has the ability
to reduce risk factors for chronic diseases by providing better lifestyle
Dr Walwyn-Venugopal says, “Since knowing one’s state of health is a
Learn more on
platform for creating healthy lifestyles, similar to the School Outreach
Programme, the Employee Wellness Programme also provides
screening and counselling services to the participants.” Medical Benef_its
After a successful pilot with MBS staff members, the programme was
introduced to the State Insurance Corporation and Cable & Wireless.
by visiting:
“Organizations are now starting to recognise that theoretically the
health of their employees is critical to productivity, and the companies
that have completed the programme report reduced absenteeism,
increased productivity and an improved work culture,” she explains.
“We’ve been to quite a few regional conferences and health meetings
and the success of these programmes has attracted interest from many
Nevis Street, P.O. Box 424, St. John’s, Antigua
of the other islands,” she adds. “We are actually in the process of
concluding a report, which may be used as a model for other islands.”
Tel: (268) 481-6271 | Fax: (268) 481-6370

Tracelyn Cornelius
BusinessFocus • August/September 2008 | 33
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