Health Minister and chairman of the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) Dr Fenton Ferguson (right), chairs the 25th Meeting of COHSOD at PAHO headquarters in Washington DC. From (l-r) is PAHO’s Assistant Director, Dr Becerra Posada, PAHO Director Carissa F. Etienne. (Photo: Derrick Scott)
By Derrick A. Scott
WASHINGTON, USA -- Jamaica's health minister and chairman of the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) Dr. Fenton Ferguson has praised the Pan American Health Organization and the World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) for reaffirming their support to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries as they work to confront health challenges.
Addressing the 25th Meeting of COHSOD at PAHO headquarters in Washington DC, Fenton said the support from PAHO and the WHO is vital to the region continuing to provide the necessary health services to combat certain communicable diseases.
Fenton told health officials that the countries of the Caribbean face a range of health issues. As a major tourist destination, they face a significant risk of reintroduction of diseases, and the support from both health organizations will help to strengthen the country’s capacities to comply with the international health regulations, which govern how countries respond to outbreaks with possible international repercussions.
The health minister also noted the importance of addressing non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and emphasised the leadership that Caribbean countries have shown on this issue at the global level.
Fenton, who is also chairman of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), said the burden of HIV also remains a concern in the Caribbean. He urged countries to work to prevent new cases, especially among young people.
PAHO director Carissa Etienne in her remarks said that Caribbean countries have collaborated successfully in developing joint action plans in areas including HIV and NCDs.
“PAHO will continue to work to promote a human rights agenda and towards a reduction of stigmatization of the disease and those perceived as high risk,” she said.
She added that PAHO/WHO’s strategic priorities for the next few years include advancing universal health coverage, reducing inequities in health between and within countries and territories, and addressing social determinants of health.
Etienne also congratulated the countries on their new Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), saying the agency’s launch earlier this year was a milestone in health cooperation. PAHO/WHO, which played a major supporting role in CARPHA’s establishment, will continue to work closely with and support the agency.
“This is an exciting time for public health in the Caribbean,” said the PAHO director. “The environment of public health is changing and we have an opportunity to shape it into something which will be of benefit and an example to the region as a whole.”
While in Washington, the health minister along with a delegation from his ministry were among other health ministers in the Americas who attended the just concluded 52nd Directing Council meeting of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) in Washington.