Conference theme explores health maintenance

Ministry of Health officials predict record attendance at the this month’s healthcare conference, the seventh consecutive year government has staged the gathering, drawing on speakers and audiences from around the region and North America.

The conference, subtitled “The Chapters of a Healthy Life,” is at The Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman from Oct. 20-22 and will feature at least 10 speakers, breakfast, coffee and cocktails, and a handful of breakout sessions with panels, more speakers and an opportunity for audience participation.

“The theme of the conference will focus on optimal health during the various stages of life,” said Jennifer Ahearn, chief officer in the Ministry of Health. “Speakers will cover a range of topics over the entire life span to include children’s and adolescent health, women’s and men’s health, and the health of older persons.”

The speakers are drawn from a variety of backgrounds: yoga instructor and authority on aging Louis Tenenbaum from Washington, D.C., will ask if aging is a book or a screenplay; Senior Public Relations and Marketing Manager for Maples and Calder Chelsea Rivers, mother of a “differently abled” son, will look at “Children with Disabilities: When Hugs and Band-Aids are not Enough”; Trinidad’s Dr. C. James Hospedales, executive director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency since February 2013, and previously responsible for the Pan American Health Organization’s program for prevention and control of chronic noncommunicable diseases, will discuss “Achieving Goals for a Healthier Caribbean Region.”

Dr. Verna Brooks McKenzie of Jamaica, an honors graduate of the University of the West Indies in obstetrics and gynecology, will address “Women’s Menopausal Health” to kick off the second day of the conference.

She is followed by countryman Dr. Fitzroy Henry, speaking on “Nutrition: The Preface to a Healthy Life.” A Ph.D. in health and nutrition from the University of London, Dr. Henry was an associate professor for five years at Harvard University, two years in Nigeria, seven in Bangladesh and two at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

He is currently professor of public health nutrition in the College of Health Sciences and the School of Public Health and Health Technology at Jamaica’s University of Technology. For 18 years he was part of PAHO as director of the Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute.

Among local speakers, Sophia Chandler Alleyne, a master’s-level practitioner in the Outpatient Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Health Services at the Cayman Islands Hospital – working as a psychologist with children who have been abused or are at risk – will speak on “Victims or Survivors: Possible Outcomes Over the Lifetime of Those Who Have Experienced Childhood Trauma.”

Canadian author and educator Michael Reist will speak on “Promoting Emotional Health through Childhood and Adolescence”; men’s health specialist Dr. David Greenberg will take on Canada’s 8 million post-40 male population in a talk titled “Development and Implementation of Men’s Health Guidelines for Family Practice and The Alpha Male/How to Care for the Man Who Doesn’t Think He Needs Your Care”; Dr. Wael Barsoum of the Cleveland Clinic will discuss “The Chapters of a Healthy Life: Change your Chapter by Modifying Your Behavior”; and Dr. Colin Higgs of Canada’s Memorial University of Newfoundland will explore “A New Approach to Increasing Population Physical Activity.”

The “Chapters of a Healthy Life” theme, says Ahearn, “aims to encompass a wide range of health issues that may affect the local population at different stages of life.

“We also aim to educate the public in the various ways that they can stay on top of their health and fitness in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle no matter their age,” she says.

Ahearn expects attendance to exceed 2015’s record 800 delegates.

The event kicks off Thursday evening at 5 p.m. with registration and refreshments, followed by opening remarks, and by Dr. Hospedales. Closing remarks and a 7:15 p.m. cocktail reception complete the day.

Friday’s sessions begin at 7:45 a.m. with registration and breakfast, followed by Dr. Brooks McKenzie on menopausal health, Dr. Fitzroy on nutrition, a coffee break, and Mr. Reist on childhood and adolescent emotional health.

Sophia Alleyne, Chelsea Rivers and David Greenberg follow in steady succession, before three two-hour breakout sessions in the afternoon offer attendees a more intimate setting to discuss “Tech-ing up your health,” “Saving Face: Teeth, Eyes and Ears” and “Understanding the Ageing Brain.”

Attendees are on their own for the evening, but expected back on Saturday at 8:15 a.m. for registration and breakfast. At 9 a.m. Louis Tenenbaum takes the dais, followed at 10 a.m. by Dr. Higgs and a coffee break at 11 a.m.

Rounding out the conference, Dr. Barsoum will speak at 11:30 a.m., followed by 30 minutes of “closing remarks.”

Ahearn describes how the “Chapters” theme and speakers were selected: “The conference has a designated planning committee, chaired by Lizzette Yearwood, CEO of the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority, with representatives from the Ministry of Health and Culture, Public Health, Tower [Marketing, handling public relations and press liaison] and the HSA.

“Potential topics and theme are shaped by the committee, based on feedback from previous years and suggestions from the post-conference attendee survey [from 2015 and earlier] in regards to what delegates would like to see represented at future events.

“Speakers for the conference are strategically chosen based on those submitted presentation synopses [which] best fit within the conference’s theme,” she says.

Having established a solid reputation after six years, and carving out a regular slot on the healthcare calendar, the conference is ready to consolidate its gains, built on its open invitation and free admission.

“As a free-to-attend and open-to-all event,” Ahearn says, “the conference is not just restricted to members of the medical community alone. One of the most successful elements is the opportunity to educate the general public about matters that may affect their health as well as ensuring that key stakeholders such as [human resource] managers and insurance companies are also invested in supporting the health of Cayman’s community.

“We strive also to feature a dynamic and engaging lineup of local and international speakers,” she says.