Pan American Health Organization

Cayman Islands

  • Overall Context
  • Leading Health Challenges
  • Health Situation and Trends
  • Prospects
  • References
  • Full Article
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Overall Context

Flag of the Cayman IslandsThe Cayman Islands comprises three islands: Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman. They are located in the western Caribbean Sea, approximately 240 km south of Cuba and 270 km northwest of Jamaica. Grand Cayman is the largest and most populated island; it covers 200 km2 and is approximately 35 km long with an average width of 6 km. George Town, the capital, is on Grand Cayman. There are no rivers on any of the islands and the coasts are largely protected by offshore reefs. Given its small size, the Cayman Islands’ tropical climate is strongly influenced by the sea and prevailing winds.

Cayman is one of the six self-governed United Kingdom Overseas Territories (UKOTs) in the Caribbean; the Queen of the United Kingdom is Head of State and is represented by the Governor. The Governor is responsible for foreign affairs, defense, internal security, and the police. The present Constitution, which came into effect in 2009, establishes the appointment of the Premier, Deputy Premier, Deputy Governor (who must be Caymanian), and Minister of Finance, and provides for an 18-member Legislative Assembly. The Cabinet is composed of the Premier, six other Ministers, and two nonvoting ex-officio members and is responsible for the formulation and implementation of policy as it relates to every aspect of government.

The total resident population of Cayman Islands in 2015 was 60,413; 56.7% were Caymanian and 43.3% were non-Caymanian (). Figure 1 shows the structure of the population by age group and sex, estimated for 2015. Of the 26,780 households in Cayman, 95.7% are located on Grand Cayman. In 2015, the crude birth rate was 11.0 live births per 1,000 population.

Figure 1. Population structure, by age and sex, Cayman Islands, 1991 and 2015

The Cayman Islands population increased by 12.8% between 1991 and 2015. In 1991, the population structure had an expansive pyramid shape for the age groups over 35 years, while the population under age 25 showed stationary growth. By 2015, the expansive pyramid shape had moved to age groups over 50 years. The population under that age had stationary growth, especially in age groups under 30 years, in relation to decreases in fertility and mortality in the last decades.

Source: Pan American Health Organization, based on the United States Census Bureau International Database, August 2016.

Cayman Islands’ main industries are financial services, tourism, and real estate sales and development (). The economy has experienced slow but steady growth since the 2009 recession through policy interventions such as reduced import duties, lower business licensing fees, development concessions, extended support to small businesses, and other initiatives geared toward achieving greater economic diversification and increased employment opportunities ().

In 2015, the gross domestic product (GDP) grew an estimated 2.0%, which was lower than the 2.4% growth in 2014, but exceeded the average growth of 1.6% between 2010 and 2014. The economic growth was broad-based, as all sectors expanded except the hotel and restaurant sector, which declined by 0.7% in 2015 compared to 4.9% growth in 2014. This was mainly due to a slowdown in the growth of stay-over arrivals (). Nominal GDP per capita income in 2015 was US$ 57,298, lower relative to the US$ 59,587 estimated for 2014. The inflation rate was 1.3% in 2014, but there was deflation (–2.3%) in 2015, mainly as a result of lower global oil prices and a continued downtrend in housing rentals. The United States continues to be the dominant trading partner of the Cayman Islands, accounting for 85.3% of total imports ().

There are no direct taxes in the Cayman Islands and the government raises its revenue from fees and duties. Against a background of economic recovery, improvements in labor market indicators continued in 2015 with a further reduction in unemployment. In 2015 the total employment rate increased by 4% to 39,138 jobs (). The unemployment rate among Caymanians declined from 7.9% in 2014 to 6.2% in 2015 ().

The government provides free education for Caymanian children at primary and secondary schools. As of 2014, the mean years of schooling was 13.4, with no difference between men and women ().

The Cayman Islands has a Human Rights Commission, whose mission is to lead in promoting, protecting, and preserving human rights in the Cayman Islands. This is accomplished by: promoting the integration of human rights values into everyday life; encouraging government accountability to national and international human rights standards; embracing the Cayman Islands Bill of Rights, Freedoms and Responsibilities and the principles of democracy; and empowering all persons to understand and exercise their rights.

In 2011, Cayman Islands passed the Gender Equality Law which prohibits discrimination in employment and related matters and serves as local “enabling legislation” to uphold the principles of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). In 2016, the UK officially extended CEDAW to the Cayman Islands.

The National Health Policy and Strategic Plan outlines the vision, values, strategic directions, and objectives with regard to health and the health system. The vision is “Health and Well-being for All in the Cayman Islands” ().

A Cancer Registry was established in 2010, but it is currently voluntary. A Cancer Registry Bill, introduced in 2015, was released for public consultation but has not progressed due to concerns with confidentiality.

The Mental Health Law was revised in 2013 to provide better care for persons with serious mental illnesses or mental impairment (). The Mental Health Commission was also established in 2013 to provide oversight on matters relating to mental health and well-being, which includes protecting the rights of patients, and providing support to and advocating for persons living with mental illness, and their families, as well as general education about the Mental Health Legislation (). The Ministry of Health is in the process of finalizing a Mental Health Policy.

In keeping with the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and in accordance with the Tobacco Law, passed in 2008, and Tobacco Regulations of 2010, public places are smoke-free. This comprehensive legislation governs the sale, promotion, and use of tobacco in the Cayman Islands.

The United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) represents the needs and concerns of the Overseas Territories at regional and international meetings, and fulfills international responsibilities related to such instruments as the International Health Regulations (IHR), the FCTC, and reporting on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) ().

The Health System

The Ministry of Health has the primary responsibility for developing health policies and programs, and providing health services through its various departments and authorities . The Health Services Authority (HSA) is the sole provider of public health care services at primary, secondary, and tertiary levels of service. Included in this network of services are the 124-bed Cayman Islands Hospital on Grand Cayman, the 18-bed Faith Hospital on Cayman Brac, primary health care and public health services delivered through Faith Hospital in Cayman Brac, five district health clinics in Grand Cayman, one district health clinic in Little Cayman, and school health clinics. The Cayman Islands Hospital and Faith Hospital offer inpatient and outpatient services, including some specialist services.

Dental services are delivered on-site at the Cayman Islands Hospital and Faith Hospital, as well as through the schools and district clinics in Grand Cayman and Little Cayman. Ophthalmology services are also delivered on-site at the Cayman Islands Hospital and through visiting specialists on Cayman Brac. Other departments that form part of the public health service are the Department of Environmental Health, and the Mosquito Research and Control Unit.

There are two private hospitals in the Cayman Islands: the CTMH Doctors Hospital (established in 2000 as the Chrissie Tomlinson Memorial Hospital) and Health City Cayman Islands. CTMH Doctors Hospital is a private, for-profit 18-bed medical/surgical hospital specializing in surgical care (). The hospital offers diagnostic and imaging capabilities, family practice, and pediatric medical care. Health City Cayman Islands opened on Grand Cayman in February 2014 (). It is a tertiary care hospital specializing in chronic and acute cardiac, orthopedic, bariatric, neurological, and pediatric cases.

Leading Health Challenges

Critical Health Problems

Emerging Diseases

In June 2014, the first case of chikungunya fever was confirmed in the Cayman Islands; by the end of 2014, 44 cases had been confirmed (28 imported, 16 local). There were six cases detected in 2015, and all were imported. As of November 2016, 30 Zika fever cases had been confirmed; 20 cases were local and 10 were imported.

The Mosquito Research and Control Unit (MRCU) was established in 1965 to protect residents and visitors from mosquito-borne disease. In July 2016, the Unit released genetically modified mosquitoes in the West Bay area of Grand Cayman. Standard mosquito control measures will continue during the project, and if the project is successful at reducing the number of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which are responsible for spreading Zika, dengue, and chikungunya, consideration will be given to releasing the mosquitoes across Grand Cayman ().

Chronic Conditions

Noncommunicable Diseases

In order to determine the burden of chronic, noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) in the Cayman Islands, the Ministry of Health conducted the “Healthy Nation Survey” of 25–64-year-olds in 2012, using the STEPS survey instrument to identify risk factors for NCDs (). The major risk factors identified in the survey were use of tobacco, daily consumption of less than five servings of fruit and vegetables, overweight, raised blood pressure, and low level of physical activity. Of those surveyed, 42.9% reported having three or more of these risk factors, and of this group, 39.2% were in the 25–44-year age group. According to the body mass index (BMI) classification, 36.6% of respondents were classified as obese and 70.6% were classified as overweight. Of those surveyed, 15.8% had raised blood pressure (= 140 mmHg) and were not on medication for this condition. Approximately 15% of the population smokes tobacco. Men (20.7%) were two times more likely than women (9%) to smoke. The percentage of the population who reported currently using alcohol (had drunk alcohol in the 30 days prior to the survey) was 51.5%. The proportion of men (63.0%) who reported currently drinking was greater than that of women, (39.4%). The highest percentage of current drinkers was reported in the 25-34-year-olds, at 59.7%, with no significant differences between men and women. The survey results pointed to low levels of physical activity; 34% were classified as having low levels of physical activity. More men were active than women and younger persons were more active than older persons.

Mental Health

An assessment of the mental health system in the Cayman Islands was conducted in 2014 using the World Health Organization Assessment Instrument for Mental Health Systems (WHO-AIMS). The data collected from six outpatient facilities offering mental health services indicated that almost 4,000 patients were treated in 2013; 9% of visits were by children and adolescents 17 years of age or younger. The majority of the patients were diagnosed with schizophrenia, mood (affective) disorders, and neurotic, stress-related disorders (). The main challenges to providing mental health care are the lack of a long-term residential mental health facility and a shortage of outpatient services for children and youth.

Human Resources

In 2015, the health workforce of the Cayman Islands consisted of 330 doctors (5.5 per 1,000 population), 442 nurses (7.3 per 1,000), and 48 dentists (0.8 per 1,000) (see Table 1). A total of 494 other health professionals (8.2 per 1,000) were registered and licensed to practice on the islands and included physical and occupational therapists, psychologists, pharmacists, radiographers, medical technologists, dental assistants, forensic scientists, emergency medical technicians, etc. The private sector employed 56% of medical professionals. The expansion of medical tourism resulted in an increase of health workers in the past four years.

Table 1. Number of health professionals by facility and profession, and density of health professionals,a Cayman Islands, 2011–2015.

  2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Number of health professionals by facility
Cayman Islands Hospital, Grand Cayman (government-supported facility) 424 424 436 455 537
Faith Hospital, Cayman Brac (government-supported facility) 52 39 39 38 43
Private practice (Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Brac) 459 373 409 635 732
Total (government and private) 935 836 884 1,170 1,312
No. health professionals by category
Doctor 189 200 207 294 330
Nurse 322 292 340 411 442
Dentist 40 40 37 43 48
Other professionalsb 384 304 300 422 492
Total 935 836 884 1,170 1,312
Ratio of health professionals (per 1,000 population)
Doctors 3.4 3.5 3.7 5.1 5.5
Nurses 5.8 5.1 6.1 7.1 7.3
All health professionals 16.8 14.7 15.9 20.1 21.7

a Ratio per 1,000 population.
b Other professionals include: physiotherapists, occupational therapists, psychologists, pharmacists, radiographers, medical technologists, dental auxiliaries and hygienists, nutritionists, genetic counselors, health promotion officers, forensic scientists, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, etc. The data exclude all visiting and locum tenens professionals.
Source: Cayman Islands, Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Economics and Statistics Office, Compendium of Statistics, 2015 (George Town); Table 4.02a.

The nursing school at the University College of the Cayman Islands (UCCI) offers a bachelor of science degree in nursing; nurses are registered through the Nursing Council of Jamaica ().

Health Knowledge, Technology, and Information

The Health Services Authority has a health information system in place. It is designed to transmit and store medical data for the two public hospitals and six regional clinics. The system has modules for clinical, administrative, and financial information and patient records. The private sector health care providers use health information systems that are not integrated with the public system. HSA has developed a patient portal that will be expanded to provide patients with access to diagnostic information and appointment scheduling ().

At present there is limited use of information and communication technology and social media for collaboration between the health sector and other sectors and departments or for increasing technical cooperation.

The Environment and Human Security

The Cayman Islands’ low-lying islands are particularly vulnerable to the rise in sea level. The islands are also located in “hurricane alley,” which heightens the risk of and vulnerability to more intense hurricanes created by higher sea surface temperatures. No significant environmental events were recorded during the reporting period. The Cayman Islands has adopted a comprehensive plan of action to combat damaging effects of climate change. The Cayman Islands have drafted a Climate Change Policy designed to achieve a low carbon climate-resilient economy. The policy refers to the vulnerability of the Caribbean Islands for natural disasters induced by climate change ().

The traditional sources of water supply through private wells and/or catchment in cisterns have been replaced by piped water on Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac. This service is provided by the Water Authority and the Consolidated Water Company, both of which provide desalinated water. There are no Water Authority operations in Little Cayman, but a number of small desalination plants serve individual properties and developments. As of 2015, 97% of households had access to improved water, 91% of which had piped water and 6% of which received water through other improved methods. The coverage for improved sanitation was 96% ().

Three landfills operate in Cayman Islands. For 2011, the total waste managed was approximately 69,011 tons (). The government has developed a National Solid Waste Management Strategy that uses an integrated solid waste management system to improve the sustainability of waste management practices and make increased use of waste as a resource ().

The number of road traffic accidents increased from 968 in 2014 to 1,068 in 2015. Of the 1,068 accidents, 13 involved fatalities, 35 resulted in serious injuries, and 270 in minor injuries.

In 2015, of the 3,685 crimes reported, 47% were property crimes (theft and burglary) and 20% were related to assault, including rape and other sexual offenses. Eight attempted murders and three murders were reported in 2015 ().

The Cayman Islands has a small agricultural sector comprising 302 registered farmers who in 2015 cultivated 11.25% of the territory’s area. Most foods are imported from North America, Jamaica, and the UK ().

Monitoring the Health System’s Organization, Provision of Care, and Performance

Cayman Islands is committed to having a health system that ensures access to the highest-quality care at costs that are affordable and sustainable for all residents. However, providing and sustaining affordable and accessible health services continues to be a challenge in the face of rising health care costs and budgetary constraints.

In 2015, total expenditures on health care by the government and private sector were approximately US$ 328 million, representing 9.74% of total GDP. Public funding accounted for approximately 51% of health expenditures and private insurance and out-of-pocket payments accounted for 49%. Public health care expenditure as a percentage of the government’s total spending increased from 23% in 2011 to over 25% in 2015 ().

The Health Insurance Law, which was revised in 2013, requires every resident of the Cayman Islands to have health insurance coverage. Employers are required to provide a Standard Health Insurance Contract (SHIC) plan that has the minimum, required health benefits for employees and any dependents who reside in the Cayman Islands. Employees contribute a maximum of 50% of the cost of their plan. While benefits provided in the government-regulated SHIC form the basis of all health insurance plans, most employers offer higher than the mandated coverage (). Self-employed persons must provide for their own and their dependents’ health insurance. Health insurance coverage must be obtained through one of the nine approved health insurance providers.

The Cayman Islands National Insurance Company (CINICO), a government-owned insurance company, was established in 2004 to provide health insurance coverage to civil servants, pensioners, seafarers, veterans, and their dependents (). CINICO also provides coverage to the indigent, elderly, and persons who are unable to obtain coverage through private insurers. It also provides health insurance coverage for selected statutory authorities and government entities.

Although all residents are required to have health insurance coverage, health care financing remains a challenge as health costs continue to increase. There is a need to address the escalating costs and arrive at a sustainable financing model to ensure the future viability of the health care service delivery system.


In 2017, the Ministry of Health will commence work on reviewing the National Health Policy and Strategic Plan for 2012–2017, with a view to developing action plans and subsequent implementation. The Mental Health Policy will be finalized in 2017; it will identify priority areas for action in an effort to improve the health and well-being of persons suffering from mental illness. It is anticipated that in the third quarter of 2017, work will commence on the construction of a long-term residential mental health facility to accommodate chronically ill patients The Cayman Islands Health Services Authority Strategic Plan 2010-2018 has a strong focus on access to quality health care, including enhancing access to primary health care and strengthening community health through a network of lay-persons. It also seeks collaboration with various partners to actively involve the population in addressing NCDs ().


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