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    Toward a Caribbean Public Health Agency

    By Keith R | August 13, 2008

    Topics: Health Issues | No Comments »

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    Over the last three decades, the nations of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have developed a series of small health-related institutions for different tasks, spread out over different member states. In recent years some member governments have questioned the wisdom and cost-effectiveness of having such compartmentalization.

    And some have even dared to wonder aloud if the come has not come for member states to acknowledge that CARICOM has a more robust role to play in public health than it has in the past. The cooperation on HIV/AIDS via the Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV/AIDS (PANCAP) and last year’s Caribbean meeting on chronic non-communicable disease (cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, etc.) seem to have convinced most member states that the time is ripe for a full-fledged Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and a higher profile CARICOM public health agenda.

    In September 2007 the CARICOM Ministers of Health agreed on creating a self-administering CARPHA by 01 January 2010, and that it the five “regional health institutions” (RHIs) should be folded into it. The RHIs are:

    The Ministers launched a consultation process to draft the agreement creating it that must be ratified by all member states. At the CARICOM Heads of Government Conference held last month, the CARICOM leaders gave their stamp of approval and urged the process forward.

    Two weeks later a special session of the CARICOM Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) met in Port-of-Spain to hammer out some of the details. What should the overall mandate for CARPHA be (which issues and responsibilities should it have), beyond what the RHIs are already doing? Will all the RHIs move to a single headquarters, or remain spread out? Who will report to whom? How will synergies best be promoted? What will the relationship be with national health ministries? What will the relationship be with PAHO, which currently has CAREC and CFNI under its wing? [PAHO has been very supportive of the CARPHA concept, and is providing technical support to the discussions about its formation.]

    Stay tuned. It’s possible that some of details about the prospective Agency will be announced on or near Caribbean Wellness Day, 13 September.

    Meanwhile, I have a question: Has anybody asked the general public of the CARICOM member states what they would want/expect out of a CARPHA?


    From the Health Ministry of Trinidad and Tobago:

    A step closer to the Caribbean Public Health Agency

    The Government of Trinidad and Tobago hosted a Special Meeting of the CARICOM Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) on Monday, 21st July at the Hyatt Regency, Port-of-Spain.

    Trinidad and Tobago’s Health Minister, Senator the Honourable Jerry Narace, joined his regional counterparts at the meeting to discuss the establishment of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).

    In July 2007, CARICOM Heads of Government accepted COHSOD’s recommendations to create a new regional public health agency incorporating the functions of the five Caribbean Regional Health Insttiutions (RHIs). The current RHIs are:

    * Caribbean Epidemiology Centre (CAREC)
    * Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute (CFNI)
    * Caribbean Environmental Institute (CEHI)
    * Caribbean Health Research Council (CHRC)
    * Caribbean Regional Drug Testing Laboratory (CRDTL)

    In September 2007, the Caucus of Ministers of Health agreed to proceed with the establishment of CARPHA and designed a process for the development and implementation of the new agency. The Caucus of Ministers also agreed that the agency be established as a self-administered entity and be ratified by all member states by January 1st, 2010.

    At the Special Meeting, Health Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Jerry Narace gave the welcome address, heralding the coming together of regional Health Ministers and Public Health professionals toward the goal of establishing the Caribbean Public Health Agency by 2010.

    Edward Greene, Assistant CARICOM Secretary General, served as the Chairman for the days proceedings which included many presentations by public health officers from countries within the Caribbean Region.

    Guyana’s Minister of Heath, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, regarded the establishment of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) as a “bold step” noting that the region is no stranger to such integral steps. The process will involve the adoption of worldwide best practices as well as the development of policy based on the unique aspects of the CARICOM Region.

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