(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana) Ministers of Health of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have endorsed a plan of action for the transition of the Regional Health Institutions into the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) by 2010. The endorsement was made at the annual Caucus of the Ministers of Health held in Washington DC, USA on the eve of the PAHO Directing Council which began in Washington DC on 29 September.
The Meeting of Health Ministers approved the general functions and governance structure of the Agency as proposed by the CARPHA Steering Committee presided over the Hon. Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, Minister of Health, Guyana. The Ministers mandated the Programme Management Group to finalize the structure and costing by the end of the year for approval by the Community’s Council of Human and Social Development (COHSOD) in time for presentation to the Intersessional meeting of the CARICOM Heads of Government in March, 2009.
The Meeting also commended PAHO and the CARICOM Secretariat and Member States for coordinating a variety of activities at the regional and national Caribbean Wellness Day programmes. Caribbean Wellness Day was observed on 13 September 2008 under the theme Love Your Body in fulfillment of one of the recommendations of the Port of Spain Declaration: Uniting to Fight the Non Communicable Diseases. The Port-of-Spain Declaration resulted in 15 actionable recommendations from the first Summit of Heads of Government, held in Trinidad and Tobago on 15 September, 2007.
The Ministers endorsed the programme for sustaining the Wellness Revolution and commended both the Canadian Government and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) for supporting the CARICOM initiatives. The programme’s main priorities include packaging and labeling of tobacco products and improving the legal framework to reduce smoking.
Among other issues discussed and agreed upon were the Caribbean Regional Strategic Framework for HIV/AIDS under the Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV/AIDS (PANCAP), and acceptance of the report towards a regional medical licensing examination from the Caribbean Association Medical Councils. The Caucus of Ministers of Health, recognising the impact of recent hurricanes on the Region including several Member States and Associate Members, in particular The Bahamas, Haiti, Jamaica and Turks and Caicos Islands, as well as Cuba, passed a resolution, expressing solidarity and support to the Government and people of those countries.
At the closing session of the Meeting, Minister Ramsammy, who also presided over the Caucus, said that it was one of the most stimulating meetings and urged that the future health agenda must place greater emphasis on mental health, rehabilitation of disabilities, early childhood development, aging, violence as a public health issue and the health effects of climate change and disasters. He appealed to the Caucus “to build on what we have to ensure that we leave a legacy of a healthy Caribbean”.
The Caucus of CARICOM Ministers Responsible for Health:
Recognised the serious material and health devastation and post traumatic stress faced by countries of the sub-region during the 2008 hurricane season.
Expressed sincere concern for the health and well being of the peoples of the Bahamas, Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica and Turks and Caicos Islands.
Endorsed the steps taken by the CARICOM Secretariat, PAHO and other international agencies in assisting these countries.
Expressed its praise for the individual country efforts by CARICOM governments, the private sector and civil society in supporting their recovery.
Urged continued support for the countries, especially Haiti, which had been affected by five storms.