Minister of Health, Donville Inniss (seated, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, NULL, NULL, 0); PAHO/WHO Representative for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Dr. Merle Lewis??(in hat) and other health officials are pictured at the workshop. (C. Pitt/BGIS)

The Ministry of Health is now armed with empirical data to better mitigate and prevent outbreaks of acute gastrointestinal illness and other food-borne diseases.

This follows the presentation of the results of a Barbados Burden of Illness (BOI) Study, which looks at food-borne pathogens, to Minister of Health, Donville Inniss and health officials, during a Data Dissemination Workshop at the Ministry of Health, Culloden Road, St. Michael, today.

The Health Minister acknowledged that in "today’s interconnected and interdependent world", local food-borne illnesses posed a potential threat to the rest of the world.

He explained that the Caribbean region was vulnerable to environmental challenges, such as food-borne disease outbreaks which impacted negatively on the tourism industry and, at times, required the closure of hotels by local public health authorities, resulting in negative publicity and litigation.

??Mr. Inniss said any major outbreak of food-borne diseases would mean the deployment of additional resources to provide the clinical care necessary. It could also result in an increase in absenteeism in the workplace and schools, he noted. ????????????????????????????????????????????

While food-borne illnesses are a global problem, the Health Minister said the Ministry of Health recognised the importance of "evidence-based decision making", and decided to investigate the local situation.

"This was done through a research study aimed at determining the extent of the problem in Barbados and the risk factors involved. Of equal importance, this study involved an evaluation of our current acute gastrointestinal illness and food-borne disease surveillance system.

"With this baseline information, interventions, targeted surveillance and research activities can be developed and evaluated. This fundamental knowledge will also inform international estimates such as the World Health Organization Global Burden of Disease Assessment," Mr. Inniss asserted.

He urged those health officials attending the workshop to think about strategic ways in which they could strengthen the local surveillance system. He also challenged them to develop risk-based solutions and public policies that would reduce food-borne diseases.

Mr. Inniss pointed out that policy in this area would only be impactful if it were rooted in science and measured for its impact. He commended the Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Joy St. John, Chief Environmental Health Officer, Tyrone Applewhaite and the staff of the Ministry of Health for conducting the study.

He also singled out the environmental health officers for the outstanding work they have been doing to protect the citizens of Barbados. And, he encouraged them to carry out their duties without fear or intimidation even in the face of criticism.

"You are the ones on the frontline, often times doing your work not without some condemnation from the public. Far too often as Minister, I get complaints from individuals in this society that the environmental health officers are going after the small black man and targeting his business and frustrating his efforts.

"I wish to emphatically state that this Ministry will not discriminate whether you are a small black man or a big white woman in terms of your business activities. We will not compromise on the delivery of quality foods to citizens and visitors to Barbados. I wish to encourage you, the environmental health officers, to stay focused and do your job without fear," Mr. Inniss underlined.


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