Harvey Skinner from Toronto has embarked on a journey in encouraging health promotion worldwide. Dr.Arun Chokalingam is a Doctor of Philosophy in Cardiac Physiology and Pharmacology. His experience encompasses a unique combination of global health research, policy, training, and administration in addition to international leadership within the global health community. Dr Harvey Skinner, is a psychologist and the Founding Dean of the Faculty
of Health at York University.
This new Faculty has a mission to be an integrative force for promoting health – locally and globally.After a series of success stories in India, now their focus is Sri Lanka.
When asked as to why they chose the University of Rajarata over all other universities in Sri Lanka Dr. Chokalingam said, “Rajarata has done phenomenal service for the promotion of health. It is only in this University we find people specializing in the field of health promotion and thus offering an undergraduate degree.” He further added that 80% died due to injuries and non-communicable diseases which could have been prevented if health promotion had been effective.
Dr. Skinner elaborated on the key points of health promotion,“ Health promotion focuses on an array of aspects such as: facilitating health policies of the government, awareness of Non-communicable and communicable diseases, environment conservation and pollution, food habits for disease prevention and healthy living, prevention of smoking and drinking among the youth etc…”
He elaborated further on the health promotion activities in Sri Lanka and its indispensable need for our nation. “Sri Lanka is presently a rapidly developing nation. With high economic growth rates, we find there is more of a burden on the work force, which is the middle aged and younger population. Today the birth rate is very low and the ageing population is increasing. As a result those in the middle face consequences as they have to equate the work force that is not replaced. Another issue that can be observed is the increasing dependency ratio.
Therefore, since there is an increase in the older population, Sri Lanka should focus on disease prevention and awareness, to sustain a healthy population,” he said. Canada was the first country to introduce health promotion to the world. The two doctors have collaborated with partners in Sri Lanka and have formed a student and staff exchange programme where they hope students from Sri Lanka and Canada would communicate and enrich each other’s lives.
“Health promotion is all about mobilizing the community. It is about empowering children to become leaders, empowering women to face daily challenges. We have observed how colourful babies’ rooms are. There is a deep attachment between the mother and child. We see a deterioration of this attachment with technology and our hectic lives. However, we perceived that the mothers in Rajarata are notably attentive to their babies. Babies are given nutritious food and the mother is very playful and talkative with the child. This stimulates the baby’s brain,” said Dr.Skinner.
He further added that feeding the child was a symbol of security. When the child felt insecure they did not display their potential, he said. Elaborating on the necessity of brain stimulation which is an integral part of health promotion he noted, “When a child learns two or more languages it wards off dementia by four and a half years.”
Referring to the outbreak of CKD-mfo Dr.Chokalingam said, “Kidneys become totally dysfunctional as polluted water cannot be processed. Farmers, factories throw waste into water bodies. Over a period of time waste is accumulated and consequently it emerges as an outbreak. This is why we need to educate the people.This is where health promotion comes to play”
On a final note he said, “Rajarata can lead the world. It sets out an excellent example for not only Sri Lanka, but also to the world. You really need to see the health promotion activities in Rajarata yourself, to truly value and appreciate it. Therefore, we have decided to have a student exchange programme in the near future where students of York University visit Rajarata and vice versa where students expand their knowledge on health promotion activities from a global stand point.”