Barbados is an independent democratic country in the Caribbean with a mid-year population estimated at 275,000 in 2007 occupying 166 square miles; it is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Bridgetown and its environs, is the most populated area. In 2008 total life expectancy at birth was 77.5 years, with female life expectancy reaching 80.0 and male life expectancy reaching 74.9. Infant mortality rate declined steadily from 14 per 1,000 live births in the period 1990 to 1995 to 11 per 1,000 in the period 2000 to 2005. In the latter period, total fertility rate was 1.5 births per woman.
A significant epidemiological trend in Barbados is the increasing prevalence of overweight, obesity, and chronic non-communicable diseases in the general population. The incidence rate of HIV remained stable, ranging between 0.14% in 2002 to 0.12% in 2007. There was a 65% decline in the number of HIV-related deaths between 2001 and 2006 but this trend was reversed in 2007, with a 53% increase in the number of reported deaths. Comprehensive health care is provided through a network of polyclinics, a secondary care institution, a mental hospital, and long-term facilities for the elderly and persons with disabilities. Health care services are provided free at the point of service in the public sector. The Barbados Drug Service provides drugs and other pharmaceutics listed in the Barbados Drug Formulary free of charge to persons in the public sector and to pre-defined benefi ciaries in the private sector.
The Health Services Act Cap. 44 of the Laws of Barbados confer on the Minister of Health the responsibility for protecting the health of the population. The Ministry of Health is the singular executing agency for the delivery of health care, policy-making, and regulation of the health sector. The government’s vision for a healthy people is to empower individuals, communities, and organizations to pursue health and wellness within a system that guarantees the equitable provision of quality health care. The Barbados Strategic Plan for Health 2002-2012, which was prepared with wide stakeholder participation, articulates the policy for health sector reform in Barbados.
The Millennium Development Goals and the Essential Public Health Functions provide the timeframe to measure achievements, acknowledge challenges, and plan forward-looking strategies to achieve an equitable efficient, effective and sustainable health care system in Barbados.