The countries of the Caribbean met in Barbados to assess the implementation of plans, the response, and lessons learned since the pandemic (H1N1) 2009 virus was detected. The three-day meeting was sponsored by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) with support from the United States and Canada.
Participants highlighted the importance of broad, multi-sectoral cooperation and coordination in responding to the pandemic. Although the pandemic (H1N1) 2009 virus is a public health problem, participation by a variety of stakeholders must be coordinated for effective response. Moreover, the need for consistency between partners and coordination mechanisms was emphasized. It was noted that while a crisis can result from health circumstances or needs, the health sector alone cannot cope with a major emergency.
Participants discussed the need for countries to strengthen their surveillance systems to detect influenza cases promptly. The integration of primary care services into national response by the health services proved to be successful in the case of the pandemic. Some countries used primary care services as triage centers for influenza patients. This strategy helped ease the burden on hospitals.
Participants agreed that accurate, consistent, transparent, and timely communication increased credibility and confidence in national authorities and reduced anxiety in the general public.
Clear guidelines still need to be established about a variety of issues. Among those discussed were: closing services such as schools, restaurants, and other public health measures; surveillance at border crossings; better use of volunteers; media relations; the demands that large, profitable public events place on the system; and balancing political and economic issues with public health regulations.