Partnerships needed to beat NCDs

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A call is being made for stronger partnerships and multisectoral involvement to fight the bane of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Barbados and other Caribbean islands.

The call came from President of the Healthy Caribbean Coalition (HCC) Sir Trevor Hassell, on the occasion of the association’s ten-year report which was published this month.

“Ever stronger partnerships and multisectoral involvement, as well as a civil society sector that is increasingly committed, dedicated and capable of efficient and effective actions, will be the cornerstone of successful NCD prevention and control,” he said.

“Health considerations must be front and centre in all national and local sectoral policies to ensure that health gains are not undermined, and are promoted and complemented,” he added.

Sir Trevor pointed out that the interventions in the private and public health sector should not only be to change norms that facilitate unhealthy behaviour, but should also aim to “reduce health inequalities by working with, and targeting the most vulnerable persons and groups in Caribbean countries”.

The healthy eating advocate said advocacy, publication and service delivery remained critical functions to civil society organizations, adding that “increasingly, our voices must be heard in policy setting…and in holding governments accountable for actions to improve the health of all segments of the population”.

Sir Trevor said he looked forward to continuing close collaboration with regional and international stakeholders in an effort to control and prevent NCDs.

The HCC’s 110-page report, which covers the period from its formation in September 2008 to August 2018, highlighted a number of lessons learned and plans to ramp up its efforts in coming years.

In its publication, entitled Celebrating Ten Years of Civil Society Regional Response to the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases in the Caribbean, the HCC pointed to some successes in its health promotions and initiatives, and capacity building and workplace health and wellness interventions.

However, it said some challenges remained, including limited financial and human resources, limited success in convincing policymakers to make necessary changes, and pending realization of concrete donations from the corporate sector.

The organization said another of its internal challenges was “major dependence on resource mobilization and external funding for its interventions, resulting in an agenda that may be perceived as being driven by those providing the funding”.

Adding that there were some external challenges, the HCC said those included limited political support and commitment from some governments, inadequate government implementation of needed legislation, policies and legislation.

Without naming specific countries, it also pointed out that there was inadequate allocation at national level of human and financial resources for effective NCD prevention and control.

It also pointed to the need for more mechanisms to strengthen linkages among regional health non-governmental organizations and for maintaining partnerships.

The HCC said there was also “limited capacity or reluctance of some regional health organizations to take advantage of advances in information technology for virtual meetings and to access information online”.

In the document, PAHO’s Director Dr

Carissa Etienne pointed out that while it was necessary to celebrate the HCC’s achievements, the ongoing challenges could not be overlooked.

She said the increase of prevalence of childhood obesity has become the most critical public health concern affecting youth in the region.

“Moreover, the Caribbean has the second highest prevalence of current tobacco use among youth aged 13-15-years-old in the Americas,” she said.

“Member States of the Caribbean Community have committed to being free of tobacco smoke in public places by 2022, and to also tackle the obesity epidemic. The HCC has a key role to play in supporting PAHO/WHO policies including bans on sugar sweetened beverages and ultra-processed products in school environments, front-of-package nutritional labeling, taxation, banning smoking in public places, tobacco health warnings and taxation, while promoting healthy diets and physical activity, that will ensure that these goals become a reality.”

The HCC publication was designed to, among other things, address accountability and showcase HCC activities, promote the organization, share experiences, and highlight the work of the organization and its stakeholders in the fight against NCDs over the past 10 years. (MM)

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