Minister of Health, Donville Inniss (FP)

A high-level meeting of local, regional and international health professionals on "The Renewal of the Primary Health Care Strategy" has been regarded by this island’s Health Minister, Donville Inniss, as "timely".

Addressing the two-day consultation at the Accra Beach Hotel, Mr. Inniss noted that Barbados had determined that an enhanced primary care strategy was essential as it strived towards building and maintaining a sustainable health care system. And, he revealed that a few weeks ago there had been an extensive consultation on renewed primary health care within his Ministry, with internal and external stakeholders, to evaluate services and develop strategies to improve service delivery.

He said: "The Ministry of Health here in Barbados recognises that focusing on primary health care is the way forward, given that over the past half century there has been an epidemiological shift from a profile of infectious and parasitic diseases, as well as nutritional-related diseases, to that of Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases (CNCDs), which are essentially lifestyle related and, therefore, preventable.

"The high prevalence of Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases in the Caribbean region signals the need for this high-level meeting, as we seek to discuss beneficial ways of promoting improved health and well-being within our respective populations."

A number of initiatives pursued by Barbados to reduce CNCDs were also highlighted by Mr. Inniss, who noted these included the establishment of a CNCD Commission; a National Registry of CNCDs in 2007, ???the first of its kind in the Eastern Caribbean’; the introduction of legislation in January 2010 banning the sale of tobacco to minors; as well as legislation prohibiting smoking in public places, introduced in October 2010.
Delegates also heard that during this financial year, Barbados would likely spend some $32 million on primary health care, through a network of eight strategically located polyclinics and three satellite clinics which would offer a comprehensive range of clinical and community services including immunisations, general practice clinics, physical therapy, dental services, mental health and the provision of essential drugs. Mr. Inniss added that his Ministry was seeking to expand its primary care community-based operations and consideration was being given to the inclusion of Diagnostic Radiology and Expanded Ophthalmology services within the primary health care setting.

Meanwhile, Caribbean Program Coordinator with the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO), Dr. Ernest Pate, in his remarks pointed out that the calls for a renewal of primary health care had reaffirmed "the commitment of member states to the values of equity, solidarity and social justice and the principles of multisectoral action and community participation."

He said: "They represent the ambition to deal effectively with current and future challenges to health, mobilising forces in governmental institutions and civil society – around a broad agenda of transformation of how health systems address health inequalities, organise service delivery, and relate to public policies and development."

Though acknowledging that globally, the health of the world’s population had improved significantly over the last 30 years, the PAHO official noted, however, that while some countries had shown sustained improvement in health outcomes, others had lagged behind or even experienced reversals. "In part, these differences in achievements can be attributed to differences in the socio-economic, political and ecological constraints but there are important lessons to be learnt from the successes and failures of these three decades," Dr. Pate maintained.

He affirmed PAHO’s commitment to the region and told delegates that it would continue to provide technical cooperation to the Ministries of Health to catalyse efforts to develop access to quality health care, improve survival rates for persons with fatal or chronic illnesses, enhance outcomes in health, and reduce avoidable deaths and hospital admissions.

The workshop aims, among others, to share trends and lessons learned in the design and implementation of health policies and plans; identify areas for improvement, launch the PAHO/WHO Regional initiative for Primary Health Care country assessments and establish and strengthen PAHO’s technical cooperation agenda for the 2012-2013 work plan.


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