BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, SEPTEMBER 4TH 2013 (CUOPM) – Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis and CARICOM Lead for Human Resources, Health and HIV/AIDS, the Rt. Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas, described the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) as an example of functional cooperation and a triumph of the spirit of regionalism.
Dr. Douglas was at the time speaking at the recent launch of CARPHA at the National Academy for the Performing Arts in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.
He told the packed auditorium that in the area of health, the establishment of CARPHA has been an outstanding illustration of what can be gained by acting collectively to achieve outcomes that benefit all citizens across the Region, minimizing the inequities and maximizing the efficiencies.
Dr. Douglas stated that CARPHA is a timely gift to the people of the Caribbean, one that would result in their health being promoted and protected from disease, injury and disability.
He also pointed out that the world is increasingly characterised by massive shifts in wealth and resource flows while inequities in wealth and access to health are increasing within and across countries.
Prime Minister Douglas urged CARPHA to ensure that increased wealth leads to improved health, especially among the poor.
He emphasized that health expenditure should be recognized as an investment in human well-being, increased productivity and national wealth.
Agreeing with Prime Minister Douglas, the Director of PAHO, Dr. Carissa Etienne, gave her view on the mater.
She said “From where I stand, Universal Health Coverage is the strategy to achieve such health and well-being in the Caribbean and by that I mean not just offering universal health care “on paper” but ensuring that everyone has access to the quality care they need without fear of impoverishment.”
Dr. Etienne acknowledged that although this goal may not be easy to achieve, she believes that it is attainable.
Executive Director of CARPHA, Dr. C. James Hospedales, was confident about CARPHA’s ability to make a difference in the lives of the people of the Caribbean.
He said CARPHA would aim to reduce premature death from non-communicable diseases (NCDs), HIV/AIDS and injuries and violence by at least 25 per cent by 2025 and will include this goal as one of the Agency’s post-2015 targets for the Caribbean.
According to Dr. Hospedales, CARPHA has plans to strengthen the services it currently provides, with a focus on supporting the implementation of cost effective prevention policies informed by research evidence into what works. He was quick to add that working with partners in government, civil society and academia as well as the private sector remained a key success factor for CARPHA. Some industries however, for example, tobacco, would not be welcome at the table.
In addition, CARPHA Board Chairman, Dr. Fenton Ferguson, spoke of a future brimming with opportunities, particularly in research, as CARPHA seeks to strengthen capacity within the Region.
He said “with that capacity, we can better deal with risk management and impact assessment as we navigate the vicissitudes of a regional development agenda.”
CARICOM Secretary General, His Excellency Irwin La Rocque, applauded the template of unity and integration in the formation of CARPHA.
He said this could also serve the Region well in other areas and is in keeping with the forward thinking and leadership role of the health sector in the Caribbean.
Also speaking at the Launch, Minister of Health of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Fuad Khan referred to the multitude of illnesses that face the society.
He pointed out that together with the Ministry, CARPHA played a critical role in developing research capabilities and surveillance methods to prevent and control diseases and other disorders.
Dr. Hospedales reiterated the need for investment from member states and partners in CARPHA, if the Agency is to achieve its goals and took the opportunity to publicly thank partner agencies such as the Public Health Agency of Canada, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Canada, the US Centres for Disease Control and Public Health England.
Dr. Hospedales especially thanked the European Union for providing support for core institutional strengthening to the tune of US$2.2 million, and the Government of Trinidad and Tobago for its support with the imminent construction of a new CARPHA headquarters.
CARPHA was legally established in July 2011 by an inter-governmental agreement signed by Heads of the Caribbean Community Member States and began operations in January 2013. The Agency which held its official launch on July 2nd 2013 is a merger of five (5) regional health institutions namely: The Caribbean Environmental Health Institute (CEHI); The Caribbean Epidemiology Centre (CAREC); The Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute (CFNI); The Caribbean Health Research Council (CHRC) and The Caribbean Regional Drug Testing Laboratory (CRDTL).