PAHO reaffirms support for Caribbean countries as they confront health challenges

PAHO's Assistant Director Dr. Becerra Posada, Director Dr. Etienne, and Chairperson Hon Dr. Fenton Ferguson of Jamaica

PAHO’s Assistant Director Dr. Becerra Posada, Director Dr. Etienne, and Chairperson Hon Dr. Fenton Ferguson of Jamaica

Washington, DC, 28 September 2013 (PAHO/WHO) – The Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) will continue to support the countries of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) as they work to overcome health challenges, said PAHO Director Carissa F. Etienne today in opening the 25th Meeting of the Council for Human and Social Development – Health (COHSOD).

Link to COHSOD meeting photos

CARICOM health authorities are meeting on Sept. 28 and 29 at PAHO headquarters prior to the 52nd session of the PAHO Directing Council, which begins on Sept. 30 and includes ministers of health and other delegates from North, South, and Central America as well as the Caribbean.

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In her opening remarks, Etienne said that Caribbean countries have collaborated successfully in developing joint action plans in areas including HIV and noncommunicable diseases (NCDs).

“It is this collaborative spirit that compels you here today as this generation accepts the baton and prepares to make its mark on Caribbean development,” she told CARICOM health leaders.

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, for example. Etienne promised support for strengthening the countries’ capacities to comply with the International Health Regulations, which govern how countries respond to outbreaks with possible international repercussions. She also noted the importance of addressing NCDs and praised the leadership that Caribbean countries have shown on this issue at the global level.

The burden of HIV also remains a concern in the Caribbean, Etienne noted, and she urged the countries to work to prevent new cases, especially among young people.

“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, she said.

“This is an exciting time for public health in the Caribbean,” said Etienne. “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.”

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