Much has been said about the gains and losses of the Caribbean countries that hosted the Cricket World Cup (CWC) in 2007. Attendance at the games was lower than expected, but there was no doubt that the health and security challenges posed by the mass gathering of people were serious ones. This was especially true given the limited experience of most countries in hosting events of this magnitude.
“There is the threat of terrorism, and the threat of disease, so as a region we have to be prepared,” the Director of the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre (CAREC), Dr. Glenda Maynard, cautioned prior to the launch of the competition. The region responded by enhancing the health sector and building inter-country collaboration into the emergency response system. These preparations have been widely hailed among the CWC’s enduring legacies.
With the support of PAHO and CAREC, the countries expanded their capacity to respond to public health crises, cope with mass casualty events, and provide critical clinical care. These activities were administered by a CARICOM/CWC 2007 Health Sector Sub-Committee comprising CARICOM Ministers of Health. The Sub-Committee promoted an integrated approach to meeting regional health and security requirements and ensuring that International Cricket Council standards were observed.
A mass gathering surveillance system was established to help detect disease outbreaks or possible acts of biological terrorism. Data were reviewed daily, providing for prompt public health interventions and response. PAHO, the Public Health Agency of Canada, and the European Union provided financial and technical support for these activities. Supplementing the surveillance system were “Roving Public Health Technical Teams,” comprised of public health nurses and senior environmental health officers who had expertise in food safety and port health.
CAREC, in collaboration with PAHO’s Office in Barbados, mounted a rigorous training program for public health personnel, especially in the area of foodborne diseases and the management of solid wastes. This included a training program for food vendors in each of the host countries, which, in the case of Barbados, involved just under 4,000 (nearly all) food vendors, in an exercise that ran for almost two years, ending in January 2007.
Disaster preparedness and management entities in all the countries participated in extensive mass casualty management training conducted by PAHO in the nine host countries over a two-year period. Significant investment was made in the health infrastructure. This included upgrading hospitals and other health facilities and the purchase of new ambulances, radiology equipment, and equipment and supplies for emergency departments and clinics. Medical stations were erected at each stadium and other strategic sites, such as airports and hotels. These improvements will continue to enhance service delivery in the countries long beyond the events of the World Cup.