Minister of Health, Donville????

The Ministry of Health has joined with the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre/ Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) in an effort to identify the main factors that cause food-borne illnesses in Barbados, and to find ways to reduce such ailments.

The initiative, entitled "Barbados Burden of Illness Study", which is part of an exercise being conducted throughout the region, was launched today at the PAHO Office, Dayrells Road, St. Michael.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Minister of Health, Donville Inniss, noted that the information gathered during the exercise "will provide an estimate of the burden of acute gastroenteritis, food-borne diseases and specific pathogens commonly transmitted by food in Barbados, as well as contribute to the overall estimate of the burden of gastrointestinal illness for the Caribbean".

He added that the information gathered could then be used to "explore risk factors for infection, identify gaps in surveillance and provide the basis for guiding appropriate prevention and control measures for food-borne diseases in Barbados and the Caribbean.

"Before we make decisions on food safety policies and interventions, we must know how many people are getting sick each year from food-borne diseases, the type of food-borne disease that is prevalent and who is getting sick and from which foods….?? What doesn’t get measured doesn’t get done," Mr. Inniss asserted.

The Health Minister also highlighted the current food safety management initiatives being undertaken by his Ministry in the absence of critical data, to effectively keep food-borne illnesses at bay.?? These are: increased vigilance through regular inspections by the Environmental Health Department (EHD, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, NULL, NULL, 0); a greater emphasis on identifying significant risks and violations, including the use of penalties to discourage future offences; quick response by the EHD to violations; and efforts by the EHD to increase public awareness, encourage compliance and educate consumers about potential risks.

Some 6000 persons have also been trained in food safety matters, including environmental health officers, vendors and persons in the hospitality sector.

The Burden of Illness Study will be completed in a number of phases.?? During the first one, there will be a retrospective national population survey, which will estimate the number of persons experiencing acute gastroenteritis (AGE) symptoms and the number of ill persons that see a physician and submit a clinical specimen.?? This aspect is expected to be conducted at two-week intervals in August, 2010 and February, 2011 to capture low and high AGE seasons.

Enhanced laboratory testing for food-borne pathogens will be carried out from August, 2010 to 2011, along with a national laboratory survey.?? They will estimate the number of clinical specimens submitted that will require further diagnostic testing from the population, along with the confirmed cases of food-borne diseases. kmoore@barbados.gov.bb

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