‘Region must prevent’ trans border spread of infectious diseases

PORT OF SPAIN – The Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) says regional countries need to take adequate steps to prevent the transboundary spread of infectious diseases, describing it as a threat to regional and global health security.

The CARPHA said that it held a two-day conference here last week to discuss the devastating global impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and other public health concerns, reiterating the necessity for regional and global health security to protect and improve health.

It said that Regional Health Security (RHS) encompasses the capacities required for the Caribbean to prepare for and respond to public health threats, risks, priority issues and concerns that transcend national boundaries and potentially impact on economic stability, trade, tourism, and access to goods and services in the region.

“RHS offers a coordinated approach which is especially crucial in the Caribbean as the region, like the Pacific and African small island developing states, is characterised by small, under-resourced populations and varying surveillance, laboratory and human resource capacities.

“It is also highly interconnected with porous borders, heavily reliant on tourism, and susceptible to climate change and disasters,” CARPHA said, adding that this combination of factors significantly increases the region’s exposure and vulnerability to disease spread, enabling rapid spread of highly transmissible communicable diseases.

Furthermore, the tropical climate, and abundance of competent vectors make the region particularly vulnerable to vector-borne disease outbreaks.

“Consequently, regional health security and prevention, preparedness and response to public health emergencies need to be improved not only at the national levels, but at the regional level, as functional regional capacities are greater than the sum of the capacities of individual countries for improving RHS in the Caribbean.”

CARPHA said that the RHS planning meeting here was attended by chief medical officers and and other health representatives from its 21 member states  as well as representatives from regional and international agencies and three international developmental partners (IDPs).

“The major outcomes of this meeting include the detailing and prioritisation of member states’ current needs, increased awareness of CARPHA’s integrated surveillance and capacity building work and strengthening partnerships. These elements will assist in developing the sustainable RHS Pathway in short order.”

CARPHA said that the meeting follows the RHS meeting held in July last year in which it developed a RHS framework and conducted consultations with 84 stakeholders. (CMC)

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