Health minister appointed to chair Caribbean Public Health Agency

The Caricom Secretariat lauds the appointment of Health Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy as chairman of the Executive Board of the new Caribbean Public Health Agency (Carpha) and expressed confidence in his ability to chart the course of the agency to safeguard public health.

According to the Government Information Agency (GINA) the secretariat noted that Dr Ramsammy’s appointment is in accordance with Article 9, Section 3 of the Inter-Governmental Agreement which established Carpha as a legal entity. Ramsammy is also Chairman of the Caribbean Community’s Council of Human and Social Development (COHSOD).

Caricom said Heads of Government approved the New Public Health Agency in March 2010. The agency aims to integrate the functions of the five regional health institutions and enhance public health knowledge and expertise across the Caribbean, preventing duplication of effort and resources. “This will facilitate a coordinated approach to public health issues including managing the risk of disease outbreaks in the region,” it added.

Other members of the Carpha board are: Senator Anne Peters, Minister of Health Grenada; Dr Alex Larsen, Haiti; Richard Viser, Minister of Health Aruba; Dr Rhonda Sealy Thomas, Chief Medical Officer Antigua and Barbuda; Dr Marceline Dahl-Regis, Chief Medical Officer the Bahamas; Shirla Francis, Permanent Secretary, St Vincent and the Grenadines; Dr Marthelise Eersel, Director of Health, Suriname; Dr Irad Porter, Chief Medical Officer, British Virgin Islands; Dr Socorro Gross, Deputy Director, PAHO; Dr Jean-Loup Chappert, epidemiologist, for the Regional Health Department, Guadeloupe; Antonia Popplewell, Permanent Secretary, Trinidad and Tobago; Myrna Bernard, Officer in Charge of Human and Social Development Directorate, Caricom Secretariat; Gerard Guillet, Permanent Representative, IPO and Latin America Centre for Population Com-munication (CEPALC).

In his feature address, Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis and Caricom Chairman, Dr Denzil Douglas challenged the board to be committed and creative in its leadership so as to chart a course for the sustainability of the regional public health agency. According to the release he told the meeting that Caricom had exercised due diligence and concluded that Carpha was the most expedient way to organize and service the region’s public health agenda.

Dr Douglas noted that the agenda must focus on mitigating natural disasters to which the region was prone. He also said that “it must contribute to an environment in which our health conditions are conducive to enabling our tourism industry to attract patrons. It must foster institutional strengthening of our health delivery systems with greater emphasis on health promotion and disease prevention. It must increase the public’s awareness about the effects of toxic wastes and pollutants on their health. It must place emphasis on assuring the safety of our communities as well as workers.”

Caricom Deputy Secre-tary-General Ambassador Lolita Applewhaite acknowledged that the board has a challenging task as the agency is the first of its kind in the region. Applewhaite noted that there is an articulated vision to guide the Board and expressed confidence in its abilities to respond to the challenges and “emerge with flying colours” under the leadership of the longest serving Caricom health minister. “As the community endeavours to accelerate the CSME process, Carpha has a vital role to play in demonstrating the value of health to development and increasing the benefits of ‘health for all’ by contributing toward the reduction of health inequities,” she concluded.

Commending the new board, the release said, PAHO Director Dr Mirta Roses Periago noted that Carpha’s governance structure was critical to balancing the agency’s mandates with member states’ priorities and needs against the agendas of different stakeholders. “The Executive Board will play a critical role in ensuring such balance is maintained, she asserted. She pledged PAHO’s continued support to Carpha, especially in the area of resource mobilisation, noting that it would continue to explore mechanisms that fostered close collaboration with Carpha to realize better health outcomes for the Caribbean.

The board was installed last Friday at PAHO Headquarters in Washington DC.

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