Strengthening Caribbean Regional Health Security Preparedness and Response

The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) hosted a workshop titled Strengthening Caribbean Regional Health Security, Preparedness and Response from 20-22 July 2015. The three day workshop focused on contact tracing, and sought to promote and strengthen Member States’ capacity to respond to epidemic outbreaks and identify incidents that may be potential public health emergencies of international concern.

While there are no suspected or confirmed cases of Ebola or Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in the Caribbean, it is important for the region to remain vigilant and enhance preparedness. Up to date epidemiological information on these public health threats were provided to those attending the workshop, along with information on the strategic role of contact tracing as part of the core capacities required for implementation of the International Health Regulations (2005). The workshop also provided hypothetical, but possible scenarios in which Ebola or MERS-CoV was introduced into Caribbean countries. Participants responded to the scenarios by identifying resources and strategies for early detection, contact tracing, and response systems. The ethical aspects of contact tracing within the Caribbean context were also discussed.”

Dr. Babatunde Olowokure, Director of Surveillance, Disease Prevention and Control, at CARPHA, said “This workshop will strengthen Member States’ ability to identify and address existing gaps in national health security systems, the importance of preparedness, information sharing and robust surveillance systems has once again been highlighted by public health threats such as Ebola and MERS-CoV.” He also said that “the sharing of knowledge, experiences and lessons learnt from previous public health incidents, by both participants and facilitators, added value to workshop proceedings. 

The workshop was facilitated by personnel from CARPHA, Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), University of the West Indies (UWI), and United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US CDC). The facilitators shared their extensive outbreak experience, including field missions to West Africa to support the response to Ebola, with workshop participants.  

The workshop, which was funded by the World Bank and PAHO/WHO, is part of CARPHA’s Regional Health Security Programme that aims to support CARPHA Member States to respond to public health emergencies of international concern. It follows Exercise Humming Bird, a simulation exercise, which was held from 13-14 July 2015 and coordinated by CARPHA and the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS).

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