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Caribbean Public Health Day: In a Time of COVID-19

(Caribbean Public Health Agency, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.  2 July 2020)  Over the years, the Caribbean region has faced a series of public health challenges.  The persistence of diseases such as dengue, and the emergence of new ones such as the Coronavirus (COVID-19).  The COVID-19 pandemic has emerged as the biggest threat to the Caribbean region in recent times and has presented a clear and present danger to the health of the Region’s residents, and economies.

“This virus has been in the forefront of the minds of everyone.  We have all been concerned about the safety and health of our loved ones, our ability to provide for them should they become ill, and access to health care services.  It has also underscored the importance of public health in the Region,” stated Dr Joy St John, CARPHA Executive Director, in observance of Caribbean Public Health Day (CPHD).

Public health is achieved by promoting healthy lifestyles, researching disease and injury prevention, and detecting, preventing and responding to infectious diseases. It is also about protecting the health of entire communities. 

The celebration of Caribbean Public Health Day on July 2 coincides with the anniversary of the legal establishment of CARPHA, which makes it an appropriate time to highlight the work of the Agency, the contribution public health  can make to the socio-economic development of the Region, and to sensitize Caribbean people about the importance of public health. 

CPHD is an opportune time to highlight the role public health plays in the midst of a challenging crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic.  The pandemic has demonstrated that public health interventions such as closure of borders and stay at home policies were necessary to reduce health and socioeconomic losses.  Additionally, it also showcased the critical roles of providers of public health services who continue to work tirelessly to protect, and better the health of the Region’s people.   

The work of CARPHA advances the public health of the Region in several ways, including monitoring health and disease spread and responding to emergencies, laboratory services, nutrition and food security, health research, environmental health and pharmaceutical quality.

CARPHA Medical Microbiology Laboratory (CMML) has been actively involved in the regional response to COVID-19.  As the regional reference laboratory, the CMML conducts tests for suspected COVID-19 cases for Member States using the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended testing protocol.   The Agency continues to work closely with its Member States (CMS) and Caribbean coordinating partners and mechanisms to respond to the threat. 

The pandemic has increased the burden on health care systems in countries.  In response to further improve public health capacities in the Region, CARPHA in collaboration with other Caribbean coordinating partners and international public health partners, have been working to further strengthen and enhance the public health systems and institutional capacity in CARPHA Member States. 

On this day, Caribbean Public Health Day, we urge you take a moment to reflect and acknowledge the importance of public health and those employed in that area.   Beyond COVID-19, public health is not only about the control of infectious diseases. The Region continues to be plagued with noncommunicable diseases such diabetes, hypertension, and the second leading cause of death – cancer.  

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