Health Sector Development: Overview
It has been accepted that a healthy population is a must for the sustainable development of a country, as such, health is an investment in people. At the CARICOM Secretariat, the Health and Development Programme works with other stakeholders to improve health and wellness across CARICOM. Principal stakeholders are Member States; Community and other institutions, in particular the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO).
Cooperation in health has been a long tradition in the Caribbean, with regional engagement dating back to the 1969 Conference of health ministers. However, the current health thrust is based on the 2001 Nassau Declaration on Health, adopted by CARICOM Heads of Government. The Declaration is based on two pillars:
- The (revised) Caribbean Cooperation in Health Initiative (CCH); and
- A Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP);
The Declaration commits to “the pursuit of improved health for populations across the Region and the mobilization of resources…”. It emphasises leadership and strategic planning and management for health systems”, among other factors.
Over the years, CARICOM has made many important strides, significantly improving the health of its people. These include being the first region in the Americas to eliminate poliomyelitis and the first to eliminate indigenous measles and rubella, in 1991. More recently, it has continued its leadership by effectively putting the issue of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) on the global agenda. In this regard, in 2010, the United Nations, led by CARICOM, voted unanimously for UN Resolution 64/265 to hold a UN Summit on Non Communicable Diseases in September 2011. This action would ensure that NCDs be included in the post-2015 development agenda, with the potential to “save millions from premature death and debilitating health complications”. The foregoing action at the international level was birthed in 2007 when CARICOM Heads of Government convened a Summit to dedicate attention to the epidemic of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the Region and agreed on the 15-point Declaration of Port of Spain “Uniting to Fight the Epidemic of Non- Communicable Diseases”. The annual Caribbean Wellness Day (CWD) to observe this important achievement was also agreed at that meeting.
The Health Development programme continues its focus on improving systems and developing policies and strategies to raise the standard of health across the Region. In this context, it is guided by the strategic health priorities of the Community, outlined in the 1984 Caribbean Cooperation in Health Initiative (CCHI), now in its third iteration - CCH III. It embraces eight thematic areas, viz, Communicable Diseases; Non-Communicable Diseases; Family Health; Mental Health; Human Resource Development; Health Systems Strengthening; Food and Nutrition and Environmental Health.
Expected deliverables over the next five years as outlined in the Community Strategic Plan 2015 to 2019 includes
- development of a regional health insurance system with a basic package of services that includes Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), HIV/AIDS treatment services, and basic mental health screening; based on a costing of services;
- NCDs and HIV/AIDS related health education and prevention initiatives;
- regional management of pandemics;
- creating an enabling environment which facilitates inter-sectoral actions for improved health and wellness across the Community
- Developing and implementing a broad based health strategy grounded in the principle of population health and complying with international covenants, including the International Health Regulations (IHR) with the following outputs: a review of the CCH; An NCD Prevention and Control Study; Evaluation of the Port-of-Spain Declaration; continuing work on the a Regional Framework for Obesity in Children and IHR,.
- Review and update of CCH III, with outputs such as implementation of south/south cooperation agreements; IHR Compliance Ebola Virus Disease Prevention (CARICOM’s preparedness for Ebola confirmed by international Partners; Member States compliant with Chemical and thermonuclear risk identification and preparedness; and Implementation of a Pilot of the Caribbean Regulatory System (CRS) (for Pharmaceuticals) :
- Successful implementation of CRS pilot
- Continued support for Regulation of Health Professionals and Institutional Accreditation towards:
Completed CAMC Inter-Governmental Agreement
- Compilation of Revised model professional legislation
- Formulation of coherent regional policy on Medical Marijuana facilitated