There will soon be a targeted regional response to a major public health enemy in the region.??

The Regional Non-Communicable Disease Surveillance System Project, is expected to allow for the creation of targeted and cost-effective strategies to tackle chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the region.

Health Minister, Donville Inniss, welcomed the regional response, at the mid-term evaluation review held today, at the Accra Beach Hotel. It has been funded to the tune of US $650,000 by the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB).?? The six member countries, Barbados, the Bahamas, Belize, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago, also contributed approximately US $580,000 to the project.????

"These diseases, as you are aware consume the largest percentage of financial and human resources allocated to the health sector.?? What is admirable about the project is that it is regional in scope and will not only contribute to the national effort to address the CNCDs, but will function to the benefit of the regional public good, thus enhancing the lives of millions of people across this region," he said.

Minister Inniss stated that he expected the project would create a new mode of delivering better planned programmes to assist governments in maximising the allocation of financial resources to the management of CNCDs.??

"One of the primary expected outcomes will be improvements in monitoring and evaluation of CNCD programmes. In view of an environment of governmental frugality, improvements in monitoring and evaluation will give a clear determination whether what has been done has succeeded or failed contributing to decision-making about the efficacy and effectiveness of various interventions.?? It is also my expectation that this project will enable participating countries to share answers to common problems and through functional cooperation to share expertise," the Health Minister noted.??

?? In Barbados, the Ministry of Health has recognised the need for better information to guide financial, human resource and social policies and in 2007 established the Barbados National Registry (BNR) for CNCDs.?? The initiative is being undertaken in collaboration with the Chronic Disease Research Centre of the University of the West Indies.?? The BNR focuses primarily on cardiovascular disease, stroke and cancer.

"The Stroke Register is fully operational and the BNR Heart Register actively began collecting data on the occurrence of acute myocardial infarction in May 2009, while the Cancer Register is still in the developmental stage, but started data abstraction in July of this year for patients diagnosed in 2008," he revealed.??

The Ministry of Health is also engaged in a review of the notifiable disease register and is also working to standardise the collection and reporting of data produced by the public health system.??

Professor Surujpal Teelucksingh, Project Lead, explained that the Surveillance System was unique and set a platform for cooperation to address a "major public health enemy across the Caribbean and the Western World".??

He outlined that good data was the cornerstone of good decision making and would guide important day-to-day decisions.?? However, he noted that the response to CNCD’s required a change in approach.

"With the chronic disease we have to move away from the medical model.?? It applies to acute illnesses.?? If you have a flu you go to the doctor, the doctor prescribes something [and] you get better.?? That doesn’t work for the chronic diseases… So we need to change from the medical model to a sociological model and essentially with the data base we are setting up we are hoping to bring forward these ideas.?? I think it has engendered a level of cooperation that I personally haven’t experienced before… so I think we are seeing [a] rebirth of the West Indies team in medicine here," Prof. Teelucksingh said.??

The surveillance system began some four years ago and includes partners from the IADB, the University of the West Indies and representatives from Barbados, the Bahamas, Belize, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago.?? This particular phase of the project ends in a year.??

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