Roots of a Tree: Collective Community Ownership of Health and Social Issues [Part 2]

If you didn't get a chance to read Part 1, start here! In the last post, I explain what the project is about and tell you about Dr Swaran who founded a Health Centre with her husband. Dr Swaran is also leading the project, "Collective Community Ownership of Health and Social Issues", which I had the chance to understand in more depth.

The Roots of a Tree

Although we admire the leaves and fruit of trees, when you think about a tree, and what makes a tree healthy, strong and beautiful, everything points back to the roots.

This analogy was painted to by me Dr Swaran.

A tree's roots are akin to the foundations of a healthy person's life - we should ask ourselves: "what are you feeding, watering, and doing to nurture the roots so that the tree is fruitful?"

A community garden, implemented in one of the villages as a part of this project
Village in Ba Province of Fiji

Leading Cause of Death in Fiji

As a doctor, Dr Swaran often saw patients that would come to her once their problems became too severe. One of the leading problems in Fiji related to health is the non-communicable disease (NCD). NCD is deemed a "crisis" by the Ministry of Health because of how quickly it has become the leading cause of death in Fiji.

Mainly the challenges revolved around physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, alcohol, and drinking. All deemed as lifestyle choices and habits that affect our health over time. But as you can imagine (and most likely experienced before), trying to change someone's attitude or mindset can be one of the most challenging tasks in the world.

With thousands of deaths liked to NCD, Dr Swaran asked herself how can we encourage people to think about preventative health and act towards changing their lifestyle?

Dr Swaran and her team went into the village and empowered an individual to help communicate the challenges, risks, and ultimately to take ownership of creating activities that promote a change of lifestyle and behaviour.

Dr Swaran and her team meet with a community inside a school

Empowering the Collective Community

Tools were given to each community to set up gardens, organize sports activities, and share information about health to different people.

One man we spoke to said that because of this project, he was able to plant a garden and now put fresh vegetables in his children's lunch boxes. The teacher of the school told us that parents were packing healthier and more balanced meals and the effects on the students' grades and overall attendance were astonishing to her.

Focus group is taking place where individuals share about what initiatives have been taking place to improve health and wellbeing

Community Health Worker

Community Health Worker

In an interview with a Community Health Worker, I ask her, "what is wellness or wellbeing?"

She answers, "It is about a healthy lifestyle. It's a holistic approach to address your mental, physical, spiritual, emotional self."

She continues to tell me about how health is improving in the village, "I'm proud that one person in our village quit smoking. It doesn't matter the number, but from all of them, one person quit smoking. It's a real progress. By now this year, my husband also quit smoking as a new year's resolution. When I go preaching about health, I think we should be an example."

She ends our conversation by explaining to me how she has personally changed. She says, "I really gained confidence and I feel like it really broadens my knowledge. I'm not afraid to talk to people and ask them to help me with my health activities".

I am personally touched by the way the health and social issues are being addressed in each community. I will carry with my the analogy of taking care of the roots of a tree, as I also think about nurturing my own health.

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