The dynamic nature of health care makes continuing education and training imperative for workers in this field. 

Minister of Health, Dr. David Estwick, made this statement as he addressed the start of the Annual Independence 64th University of the West Indies (UWI)/Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners (BAMP) Conference last Friday at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.

Mr. Estwick said: “This ensures that they are equipped to provide the best health care possible.  Furthermore, the quality and quantity of human resources in the health sector is integral to the effective and efficient management of all other health resources.  Without adequate and necessary training, staff cannot be developed to function at acceptable levels.”

While lauding the recent introduction of the Diploma in Health Services Management and the Masters in Public Health by the new Faculty of Medical Sciences, he added that these would contribute significantly to fulfilling that role.  

The Faculty of Medical Sciences and the BAMP were also commended for the leadership given to continuing medical education in Barbados. The Health Minister said: “We are all well aware of the need to keep up-to-date on evolving trends in medicine and health care.”

Noting that it was the responsibility of the Ministry of Health “to provide leadership in the health sector, acting as a catalyst, generating new ideas, anticipating change and developing strategies to assist the general population in maintaining good health,” Dr. Estwick added: “In pursuit of its policy objectives, Ministries of Health in Barbados and the Caribbean have been greatly assisted by the UWI.  The University plays a significant role in helping us to achieve the vision of healthy Caribbean people and can be one of the facilitating elements of the Caribbean Cooperation in Health in seeking regional integration on health-related matters.”

The health gains realised in the region, including low rates of infectious diseases and the relatively high and improved rankings of some Caribbean countries on the United Nation’s Human Development Index were also attributed to this relationship.  “This is no doubt made possible through a combination of progressive government policies which support social development and the contribution of the University of the West Indies and other educational institutions through the teaching of doctors, nurses and allied health professionals, who are the cornerstone of the health care sector,” said Dr. Estwick.    

The Minister also underscored the support given by his Ministry to the research efforts of the UWI, and the Chronic Disease Research Centre (CDRC).  This includes the Barbados Eye Study, which investigated the frequency of eye diseases in our population, following a sample of 4,709 Barbadians over a 10 year period and ending in 2001 as well as the Barbados National Cancer Study, launched in 2000 to evaluate the environmental and genetic risk factors for prostate and breast cancer, the principal cancers in Barbados.

Though stating that these two studies were widely cited in scientific literature, earning the CDRC a reputation for robust research, efficiency, competence and reliability, Dr. Estwick added: “Despite these accomplishments, we recognise that there is a need for more effective mechanisms through which locally and regionally generated research findings are disseminated.”

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