Caribbean Ministers of Health Agree to Tackle Regional Health Security and Health Systems Matters

Caribbean Health Ministers and technical advisors who participated in the 29th Special COHSOD Health Meeting

Nassau, Bahamas, May 29, 2023 (PAHO/WHO) – Caribbean Health Ministers on 26 March considered and approved actions and policies to tackle regional health security and health systems matters at the 29th Special Meeting of the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) – Health, in the Bahamas. 

Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) technical advisors were invited to report on the status of the Expanded Programme on Immunization in CARICOM Member States, a topic which occasioned much discussion and resulted in the passing of the Declaration of Nassau: Reinvigorating the National Immunization Programs of the Caribbean. 

Also discussed were the elimination of communicable and tropical diseases, the migration of Health Care Workers, a perennial issue in the region, and the implementation of action plans to address Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR).  Dr Franka des Vignes, PAHO Advisor, Disease Surveillance and Epidemiology pointed out that phase two of the Cooperation among Countries for Health Development project between PAHO, Argentina, and 14 CARICOM Member States, will scale up and strengthen capacity for AMR diagnosis and surveillance. 

The Ministers deliberated on the need to address the critical issue of the migration of health care workers and called for regional discussion on ways to tackle this issue and for better training opportunities for the health care workforce.  In his response Dr Benjamin Puertas, Unit Chief, Human Resources for Health (HRH) at PAHO noted the importance of the HRH Caribbean Commission for developing and implementing policy actions to address the migration of HCWs and the need to expand health workforce capacity building in the Region.  Dr Puertas mentioned that World Health Organization funding for the Caribbean is on the way. 

Ministers also received updates from the Caribbean Public Health Agency on COVID-19, the Caribbean Moves Initiative and the Pandemic Fund and the call for proposals.   

In his address to the Ministers, the Director of PAHO, Dr Barbosa da Silva Jr. urged Ministers not to return to ‘business as usual’, but to instead apply the many lessons learned from COVID-19.  Dr Barbosa elaborated: “Use the ‘silver lining’ opportunity, where the whole world recognized the importance of health systems not only for our good health but also for economic development and prosperity.  It is my commitment to use PAHO’s full capacity to provide you, our Member States, with full support as you seek to build more resilient health systems, recover from the pandemic stronger than ever, and seek to achieve universal health,” Dr Barbosa asserted. 

CARICOM’s Assistant Secretary-General, Allison Drayton, commended the Ministers and Chief Medical Officers for their commitment to collective action and expressed the need for their policy guidance to address the continuing challenges in the region.  During the meeting, country reports from Guyana and the Bahamas were shared on the status of mental health legislation and the CARICOM Secretariat also shared an update on the outcomes of the Regional Symposium on Crime and Violence as a Public Health Issue in the Caribbean and the Petion Ville Declaration on Disabilities.