Trade Ministers join cross-sectoral action to ensure healthy Community

The role of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) in boosting the health of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) was among matters that were brought before the Council which met in Georgetown, Guyana, last week.

Trade Ministers discussed health in recognition of the cross-sectoral linkages and the need for action to confront, in particular, non-communicable diseases (NCDs). NCDs are affecting the health of the Region’s workforce and have the potential to affect the Region’s competitiveness.  Child obesity was also discussed.

The Ministerial Council decided on Friday, 13 November, that it will continue discussions on matters which fall within its purview including: mandatory nutrition labelling on all packaged foods; recommendations on measures to encourage the consumption of healthier foods; nutrition standards and guidelines; food marketing and portion sizes; the level of harmful ingredients in food products; and trade and fiscal measures.

CARICOM Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, in his address to the opening of the Meeting on Thursday 12 November, placed emphasis on NCDs in the context of the health of the Region’s workforce.

“… a major factor that affects our competitiveness, and therefore our ability to maximise opportunities both within our Single Market and externally, is the health of our workforce.  Our Region has consistently been recorded among the highest mortality rates related to Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) of any region in the Americas, with heart diseases and diabetes responsible for the greatest number of deaths.  More than half the adult population has the presence of at least three of the four major risk factors for cardiovascular diseases and diabetes,” the Secretary-General told COTED delegates.

He cited what he described as “disturbing statistics” to highlight the situation that he said warranted cross-sectoral action to address the burden of unhealthy diets and related NCDs, and their impact on productivity and expenditure – both public and private.

“The seriousness of this issue cannot be overstated.  This Council must join this fight to ensure that there is a healthy workforce to boost competitiveness and productivity by reducing absenteeism in the work place, and the associated costs to the public and private purse with respect to health care,” Ambassador LaRocque said.

The COTED also considered a presentation on the proposed establishment of a Caribbean Regulatory System (CRS) for Medicines. Such a system will lead to improved access and cost of medicines, and will facilitate manufacturers’ access to Regional markets, and product surveillance in the Community.

The Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) has recommended the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) as the competent Regional body for the CRS for Medicines.

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