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Healthy Caribbean Coalition - Investment in health is an imperative

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First Published Saturday, 16 April 2011 Guyana Chronicle Online read the original article here

- consensus reached at COHSOD meeting in Guyana

THE 21st Meeting of the CARICOM Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) opened yesterday morning with a consensus that, notwithstanding the economic burdens on Member States, greater investment in health was an imperative, especially in the fight against Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases (CNCDS). With its focus on health, the two-day COHSOD meeting is being hosted by Guyana under the theme, Promoting Equity in Human Development through Public Health.

In delivering the feature address at yesterday’s opening ceremony, Guyana’s Health Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy, who is also the Chair of COHSOD, noted that while the region had made significant strides in health development, it had lagged in critical areas.

Pointing to the issue of CNCDs, Minister Ramsammy noted that one of the risk factors - tobacco use - was still at an alarmingly high level.

He stated that the region’s progress towards meeting its obligations to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) was “slow at best.”

CARICOM Member States had agreed to the implementation of the FCTC, especially as it relates to Article 13 which seeks to control tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

However, to date, at least three CARICOM Member States have not ratified the FCTC, according to a statement from the CARICOM Secretariat in Georgetown.

Dr Ramsammy, who made an impassioned call for regional standards in tobacco control, stated that the proposals regarding labelling and pictorial messages on tobacco, which had been supported by health ministers, “have remained on the shelf of the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) and are not moving.”

“If we cannot move to adequately warn the public about a substance that is a killer and acknowledge even by manufacturers that it is a killer, then the battle seems lost…” Minister Ramsammy declared.

In her address, CARICOM acting Secretary-General, Ambassador Lolita Applewhaite agreed that greater investment in health was an imperative. However, she pointed to critical milestones that have been achieved by the Community over the past 10 years; chief of which were the provisions of the Nassau Declaration 200, which underscored that the Health of the Region is the Wealth of the Region; the establishment of PANCAP to mitigate the spread of HIV and AIDS; the priorities of the Caribbean Cooperation in Health and more recently, in-roads made into CNCDS under the Port-of-Spain Declaration, Uniting to Stop Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases and the creation of a centre of excellence in public health – the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).

Using those milestones, she illustrated how far the region had come; what it had achieved in health sector reforms and pointed to those milestones as the foundations on which we could build as we moved forward.

“The region will be looking to the COHSOD meeting for ideas and actions promoting even further, the development of the health sector and give further substance to the theme of the Nassau Declaration – the Health of the Region is the Wealth of the Region,” she stated.

Guyana’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms. Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett underscored the critical importance of health to the fostering of other areas and asserted that it was a fundamental human right that was indispensable for the exercise of other human rights and therefore should always be on the front burner of the budget of Member States.

Citing her country as an example, Minister Rodriquez-Birkett stated that 8.5 per cent of the deaths in Guyana were linked to diabetes, and noted that the problem of CNCDs was a threat to the success of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).

“We must find ways to address the problem of CNCDs…The future of the CSME should not be compromised by lifestyle practices that prevent our peoples from living healthy lives,” she asserted, as she challenged health ministers and other stakeholders at the COHSOD meeting to devise creative and effective measures in addressing the prevalence of CNCDs and “allowing for greater collaboration among Member States.”

In giving closing remarks, Chief Medical Officer of Jamaica, Dr Eva Lewis Fuller endorsed the need for further investment in health and the importance of developing synergies to combat CNCDS. She further challenged the COHSOD meeting to continue being a beacon of regional integration.

Original article http://www.guyanachronicleonline.com/site/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=27170:investment-in-health-is-an-imperative-&catid=2:news&Itemid=3 .

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