Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Joy St. John
“There have been significant strides made in health and development in Barbados, due in part to the support which many non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have given to Government.”
This was acknowledged yesterday by Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Joy St. John, as she spoke at the start of consultations at the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO), Dayrells Road, to support the establishment of an NGO desk in the Health Ministry.
Noting that progress in recent decades had been threatened by the transition from communicable diseases to obesity and chronic non-communicable diseases. (CNCDs), Dr. St. John said: “This transition has clear and profound implications for the
planning and execution of health programmes. Indeed, a number of NGO groups have developed to address the problems, challenges and illnesses associated with CNCDs.”
The senior health official told representatives of the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that the health of citizens was no longer the exclusive right of any select group of decision makers, and said: “A healthy lifestyle for all Barbadians is the responsibility of all sectors in our society – government, private sector, communities, NGOs and individuals.”
Dr. St. John, in facilitating the planning of the health desk, further added: “The NGO desk will have to serve the collective need and [this] cannot be served if the Ministry prescribes and does not take on board the stated wishes and desires of the NGO group. So you have to determine and set the ground rules.”
While urging the body to be specific in stating the desired management structure, she added that there should also be clear timelines and functions for persons represented at the consultation, as well as a report on the proceeds of the deliberations and any further consultations.
“This is not to be a talk shop that ends here. This is supposed to be the start of a process that will come to fruition by the end of the first half of the financial year. So there have to be clear time lines for what this NGO desk is going to look like; how it will be managed; how it is going to support the NGOs and how the NGOs will support, manage and run it,” she said.
NGOs were also advised to examine best practices from the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Canada, as they worked towards the establishment of the NGO health desk.