Countries in the Caribbean share a similar history in the development of their health systems. They have often cooperated to deal with many of the challenges to health which they have had to confront. However, there is need for even greater collaboration and cooperation among the countries of the Region, given the increasing threats to the economies of these countries and the presence of newly emerging and re-emerging problems in the health sector. Efforts, therefore, have to be focused not only on the fight against disease, but on promoting healthy lifestyles, protecting the environment and increasing the capacity of the health sector to provide quality services and value for money.
The concept of the Caribbean Cooperation in Health (CCH) Initiative was introduced in 1984 at a meeting of the former CARICOM Conference of Ministers responsible for Health (CMH). The CMH saw this as a mechanism for health development through increasing collaboration and promoting technical cooperation among the countries in the Caribbean. The Initiative, in which seven (7) priority health areas were identified, was adopted by the CMH and approved by the Heads of Government in 1986. An evaluation of the initiative (1992-94), found that the priorities identified ensured that activities were focused in areas critical to improving health status in the region. Overall it was established that the initiative was beneficial to Caribbean countries.In 1996, the CMH mandated a re-definition and re-formulation of the CCH initiative for the period 1997-2001. A wide cross section of national and regional professionals in health and planning from 19 member countries met in Port-of-Spain in July 1997 to re-program the initiative. The meeting selected eight (8) health priority areas, recommended strategies for implementation and identified some areas of common concern which required joint action. The recommendations of that meeting, which were approved by CMH in 1997, form the basis of this current phase of the initiative.