Monday 21 May, 2018

Universal Healthcare "Not Far-fetched" in Caribbean

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) Barbados country office, hosted a two-day meeting in Saint Lucia last week, to review the upcoming 70th World Health Assembly agenda in Geneva, Switzerland.

The meeting, themed “Sustaining Better Health,” offered a forum for dialogue.

Minister for Health and Wellness, Sen. Hon. Mary Isaac stressed the need for meeting.

“This year we will have elections for the Director General for the WHO, and it gives small island states an opportunity to participate and decide. WHO and PAHO provide much support in the health sector, so all those who can participate should do so, because it is beneficial to our small island states. Elections takes place every five years, so it is an opportunity for us to participate.”

The meeting agenda included several pertinent topics affecting small island states, said Dr. Beryl Irons, the acting PAHO/WHO representative for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean countries.

“We discussed topics such as immunization and polio eradication, universal health coverage, access to healthcare and health financing. There were also discussions on morbidity and mortality with regard to chronic non-communicable diseases, and the prevention of child obesity. So it’s a very important meeting.”

Dr. Irons said the idea of universal health care in the Caribbean is not far-fetched.

“Caribbean countries are very near universal healthcare coverage because the primary healthcare system is accessible to all. Health literacy should be included [which educates on] the prevention of illness and how to stay healthy, but if there are some countries that can have universal access, I think it will be the Caribbean countries. One issue might be health financing–ensuring that all services are available, but the essential package of services exists in the Caribbean.

Health ministers and officials from across the region wrapped up the meeting on May 10. The two- day meeting was held at the Bay Gardens Hotel. The 70th World Health Assembly convenes in Geneva at the end of this month.