Honduran Armed Forces Launch Honduras Activates to Help Civilians Improve Their Health
By Dialogo July 20, 2015I would like to find the link about the boat that sunk with the oxen in ParÃ¡.
Honduras Actívate, a new program spearheaded by the country’s government and Armed Forces to improve the civilian population’s health, “began as a small initiative to promote tourism and healthy entertainment opportunities to the residents of focused areas,” according to Artillery Colonel Jorge Fuentes, the effort's National Coordinator.
But since then, the initiative has grown, hosting an event every two weeks, including activities in Lake Yojoa, in La Tigra (close to Tegucigalpa); in Tela; in San Pedro Sula; and most recently, in July in La Ceiba in the Honduran Caribbean. It's also gaining popularity, as the number of attendees rose from 7,000 for the fourth event to a record 20,000 for the sixth event, in San Pedro Sula.
Its first event occurred in April, when the Navy organized a series of athletic competitions, such as bike races and distance running, on the island of Amapala in the Pacific Ocean. Attendance was modest, but Military officials saw the program’s potential.
The next event, in May, was a success, with about 3,500 people showing up to Gracias, Lempira to trek through its cloud-forest mountains and for the bike and distance-running competitions. Armed Forces officials held it at Celaque National Park, a main source of water for the western part of the country and home to its highest peak, Las Minas – 2,870 meters above sea level. They chose the area, known for its colonial architecture and history, because Honduras Actívate “wanted to highlight the zone as a premium destination for ecological and adventure tourism as well.” Some families and groups of friends made it a weekend affair, filling the town’s hotels and restaurants, providing a significant boost to local businesses.
In addition to bringing business to host cities, the initiative has also helped Military and law enforcement authorities improve public safety in local neighborhoods where criminals had been operating. “Through this program we have recovered spaces, some of which had been damaged by drug traffickers and other delinquents,” Col. Fuentes said.
Still, promoting fitness and tourism are its primary aims. “The goals of Honduras Actívate are geared towards the prevention of nontransmissible diseases, like hypertension and obesity, which lead to other illnesses; but we also want to stimulate tourism and we want to create the conditions that result in economic growth for the communities where the events take place. If people have a positive experience, they will return on their own.”
Col. Fuentes and his team, which is supported by members from each branch of the Armed Forces, are responsible for scouting areas where exercise programs are held. Military officials register participants, provide security the day of the event and even run, walk or bicycle with some of the participants to build enthusiasm. The Armed Forces officials also transport some participants to events and administer emergency medical care, if needed.
Besides the government’s support, business sponsors donate t-shirts, beverages and some of the awards for the winners, who receive medals but also mountain bikes, sports equipment, free hotel stays and gym memberships.
A wide array of activities
Latin music with upbeat rhythms grows louder as thousands of adults, teenagers and children wearing brightly colored t-shirts and caps fill Honduras' streets during the early hours.
The program has expanded to include other sports, with community members leading activities like Zumba, karate and boxing lessons; organizers are also offering table tennis and chess to those seeking less strenuous activities, while young children play in inflated bounce houses at Honduras Actívate events.
“We want everyone to find an activity that suits them,” Col. Fuentes said. “We have high-intensity options for professional athletes, but we want to encourage everyone to engage someway, whether it’s 18 kilometers on a bike, a 30-minute walk or something lighter.”
Sabrina Estrada, a two-time participant of the intermediate cycling competition, told Honduras National Television she is very pleased with the program.
“I like the initiative. I like that it’s a family environment. I am happy sports are promoted because a person with these habits is healthier and keeps stress at bay.”
Because the program focuses on improving the civil population’s health, it’s popular with various government agencies and private businesses. “Different sectors have seen the value of what is being done and have decided to partner,” Col. Fuentes explained.
Plans to expand the program
The program's success has led Military officials to evaluate its scope and frequency. Col. Fuentes is considering launching a Honduras Actívate Extreme event in the northern Department of Atlántida, after the rainy season, when the Cangrejal River is optimal for rafting.
In July, Armed Forces officials are planning to host at least an hour of Zumba on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at different points in the nation’s two largest cities, Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula.
“We want 20 points activated to begin with, but we hope to have these mini exercise sessions in all the 298 municipalities of Honduras eventually,” Col. Fuentes said. “We are establishing new platforms because we want this to be a system, rather than a sporadic occurrence.”
The program is also expanding into the workplace, where government employees will use part of their day to exercise, developing routines that address occupational health problems.
“This is a social health movement that promotes healthy lifestyles,” said Ana Treasure, a representative of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), which is a proponent of Honduras Actívate. “We hope other nations follow this pioneer approach that Honduras has taken. We would like a Guatemala Actívate, a Costa Rica Actívate, a Panamá Actívate. We want all Central America active.”