By Alexis R. Milan
Health officials from across the Caribbean met in Trinidad and Tobago over the weekend where they discussed mechanisms to strengthen the region’s ability to respond to new and emerging threats following outbreaks of Chikingunya and Ebola several months ago.
The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) held the first Caribbean Regional Health Security (CRHS) meeting which focused on developing strategies to respond to outbreaks and epidemics of communicable diseases. These not only pose a threat to health, but a to tourism, social and economic development as well.
CARPHA Executive director, Dr. James Hospedales said that following the Chikungunya epidemic in 2014, and the ongoing outbreak of Ebola in parts of West Africa, it has become critical for the Caribbean region to review and addresses gaps in its public health systems and capacity.
That would help to improve the ability of the region to protect itself against imported infectious disease threats, he said.
Hospedales also stressed the need for regional collaboration between the public and private sectors.
Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) representative Dr. Bernadette Theodore-Gandi pointed out that collaboration was essential to respond to health security threats.
CARPHA’s hosting of the CRHS meeting was in keeping with resolutions made at the Special Meeting of the CARICOM Heads of Government on November 4, 2014, which decided on a 10-point action plan to address Ebola.
The action plan also included the establishment of a Regional Co-ordinating Mechanism on Ebola (RCME) and other emerging threats
. The third meeting of the RCME, which also took place last week, provided an opportunity to focus on the progress made in the region with regard to preparedness and response for Ebola, Chikungunya and other threats.