??Dr. Elizabeth Ferdinand (FP)

Improved surveillance of chronic diseases in Barbados has been achieved as a result of collaboration with the Chronic Disease Research Centre of the University of the West Indies.

Senior Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Elizabeth Ferdinand revealed this recently, while addressing participants at the start of the Ministry of Health’s first public health symposium, at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, Two Mile Hill, St. Michael.

Dr. Ferdinand said: "In the area of communicable diseases, our determination to strengthen the influenza surveillance system has resulted in weekly reporting of information on Severe Acute Respiratory Infections (SARS) and deaths at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. In addition, laboratory surveillance has been implemented following intense training of the relevant staff. This has allowed immunoflourescent testing to be conducted at the Public Health Laboratory since 2009 for Influenza A and B, Adenovirus, Parainfluenza virus and Respiratory Syncytial Virus.

Health officials also heard that Polymerase Chain Reaction Testing had been available at the Ladymeade Reference Unit (LRU) Laboratory for Influenza A/H1N1 since 2010 and that the LRU had now developed the capacity this year, to confirm Influenza A/H3N2 and Influenza B.

Acknowledging that diseases such as dengue fever, cancer, myocardial infarctions, stroke and HIV had an impact on the morbidity and mortality of the population as well as on human and financial resources of the country, Dr. Ferdinand added, "it is, therefore, essential that effective and efficient surveillance systems be implemented and sustained as we commit ourselves to preventative care.

"Information from such systems can be used to plan and implement relevant programmes that over time will undoubtedly result in longer, healthier and productive lives."

The symposium evolved from the Ministry’s weekly surveillance meetings at which presentations on topics of public interest are periodically made. According to Dr. Ferdinand, persons attending those meetings had indicated that it would be beneficial to share information with other health care professionals in the public health system.

Its key objectives were to demonstrate the role that evidence-based information continues to play in determining public health policy; improve the knowledge of public health professionals and update them on surveillance methods and practices, while sharing research findings.

Among the topics discussed were African Dust and Emergency Pediatric Asthma Admissions by Head of the Public Health Laboratory, Edmund Blades, and Prohibition of Smoking in Public Places In Barbados by Dr. Leslie Rollock. An examination of the role of the Barbados National Registry was also given by its Director, Angela Rose, while an update on the island’s HIV Programme was presented by the Acting Senior Medical Officer of Health (Communicable Diseases), Dr. Dale Babb.


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