Health Promotion Plagued By Challenges

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Minister of Health, Donville Inniss in converstion with Caribbean Program Coordinator of PAHO, Dr. Bernadette Theodore-Gandi following the opening of the sub-regional meeting for health promotion professionals held at PAHO headquarters today.

Barbados’ Health Minister, Donville Inniss, has urged health promotion professionals from across the region, here for a three-day meeting, to see the development of a Caribbean health promotion strategy as "creating an investment in health that is vital to the current and future expansion of our human capital."

He was addressing the start of the Caribbean Sub-regional Meeting on Health Promotion, entitled, "Towards the Development of a Caribbean Strategy for Health Promotion (2009-2013)", today at the headquarters of the Pan-American Health Organisation at Dayrells Road.

Minister Inniss noted the determinants of health were diverse enough to make developing an effective and relevant health promotion policy a huge challenge. He said: "In defining this policy, there will be many complex questions and challenges…How does one create the perfect conditions to maximise human potential and yet at the same time exercise a rational approach to the use of very finite resources?"????

Noting that such a consideration was relevant in light of the current global economic and financial crisis, he added: "You will face the challenge of delineating policy that outlines strategies for working with many sectors, while at the same time keeping the health agenda at the forefront of many competing priorities."

The Minister lauded the work of the profession, admitting that its members represented a scarce resource in the region, who were forced to be ambidextrous and multi-talented. "This was dramatically highlighted with the emergence of the Influenza A (H1N1) 2009 pandemic, which saw many of you grappling with [and] leading a heightened response to a novel communicable disease threat, while at the same time maintaining the requisite attention to your usual programme," he underlined.

While acknowledging that overall improvements in health had been made regionally, Minister Inniss, however, lamented that rates of mortality and morbidity were still unacceptably high for some health conditions. "We continue to grapple with the effects of HIV and AIDS and sporadic outbreaks of dengue fever, malaria and other infectious diseases," he declared.

The Health Minister further suggested an urgent shift in focus from the development of national sickness services, which treats disease, to the establishment of health services which would focus on promoting and protecting health, preventing ill-health and providing the best quality care for those who require it, in the most appropriate setting.

Meanwhile, Caribbean Program Coordinator with the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr. Bernadette Theodore-Gandi, agreed that the Caribbean faced numerous challenges in health and urged participants to take time to reflect and be proud of their achievements in this area.

She said: "The Caribbean was the first region in the world to eliminate polio, measles and rubella. We have introduced universal access to primary education and in most countries, also have access to secondary school education and some, tertiary education. We have reasonable access to water and sanitation in most of our countries."

The official concluded: "The challenge we often face in the Caribbean is not political will, but, our own inability as technical persons and health professionals to identify opportunities to collaborate across the sectors and implement coordinated, integrated programmes which impact on the health of our population. Often, it is not the financial resources that are lacking, but our own inability to make the first step in coming

out of our comfort zone and linking with other partners, whether in the public, private or NGO sectors."??????????????????????

The December 2-4 meeting aims to build capacity and institutional strengthening of key counterparts in Ministries of Health and Education in response to the mandates of the CARICOM Health agenda (Port-of-Spain Declaration 2007) and the Caribbean Charter on Health.

jgill@barbados.gov.bb

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