Regional health care to be improved with establishment of CARPHA

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GEORGETOWN, Guyana (GINA) – The 32nd annual meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in St Kitts and Nevis culminated with the Bureau of Heads agreeing that it was a focussed meeting with positive outcomes, as the region observed CARICOM Day.

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Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis, Dr Denzil Douglas

Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis and incoming chairman of CARICOM, Denzil Douglas, said at the closing ceremony that the summit dealt decisively with key issues including health, climate change, agriculture, and transportation.

Douglas, who has lead portfolio responsibility for human resource development, health, and HIV/AIDS in the quasi-Cabinet of the CARICOM Conference Heads of Government, disclosed that the new Caribbean Regional Public Health Agency (CARPHA) is now a legally established entity, following the signing of the inter-governmental agreement on July 2. This, he said, is a “fitting tribute” to the community.

CARPHA was the third and final component of the 2001 Nassau Declaration to be realised by the Community; the other two being the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP) and the Caribbean Cooperation in Health (CCH).

This agency is expected to improve the quality of health care delivery in the region by merging the core functions of the five regional health institutions (Caribbean Epidemiological Research Center (CAREC), Caribbean Health Research Council (CHRC), Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute (CFNI), Caribbean Environmental Health Institute (CEHI), and the Caribbean Drug Testing Regional Laboratory (CDTRL).

Douglas highlighted the significant role of the Community in the impending United Nations high level meeting on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) prevention and noted that this issue was given priority attention as the region prepared its high-level delegation for that special session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGASS) in September.

One of the major issues that the Community wants to include on the agenda of the high level meeting is the formulation of appropriate policies to address risk factors, such as tobacco, alcohol, diet and lack of physical exercises in an effort to promote healthy lifestyles among its peoples.

The Community has been deemed the front-runner in the fight against chronic NCDS, since its first ever Summit in NCDs in 2007, and was largely instrumental in lobbying for the resolution that spawned this special meeting to address the pressing health problem of NCDs, which cause an average of over 70 percent of the deaths, globally.

With regards to climate change, an issue that Guyana has played a leading role in advocating, Douglas said that it will be included on the agenda of the 2011 Summit of the Americas as a matter of priority, in light of the susceptibility of Small Island Developing States (SIDs) to this natural phenomenon.

The conference had reviewed the region’s capacity to respond to hurricanes and underscored the role of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) as facilitator, driver, coordinator and motivating force for the promotion and engineering of Comprehensive Disaster Management (CDM) in all participating States.

Referring to the link between agriculture and transportation, Douglas underscored the importance of preserving food security in the region as well as the need to transport adequately, people and goods across the Community. He said that decisions were made to engage and involve the private sector and the academic community in these two priority areas.

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