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Tony Best

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CARICOM IS ON course to integrate its key regional health institutions by 2014 and a former Barbados cabinet minister, Dr Jerome Walcott, is playing a vital role in the merger.    The Caribbean Epidemiological Centre and the Caribbean Research Council in Trinidad and Tobago; the Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute and the Regional Drug Testing Laboratory in Jamaica, as well as the Caribbean Environmental Institute in St Lucia, are being merged to create the Caribbean Public Health Agency, (CAPHA).    It will be based in Trinidad and Tobago.   Walcott, Barbados’ Minister of Health up to 2008, is the project manager with responsi bility for bringing the new agency into existence.“The timetable [for implementation] is between 2010 and 2014 and that’s when we hope to have a co-located CAPHA,”  explained Edward Greene assistant CARICOM secretary general explained.    A management steering committee headed by Guyana’s Minister of Health Dr Leslie Ramsammy and an advisory group coordinated by Sir George Alleyne, Chancellor of the University of the West Indies and a former director of the Pan American Health Organisation, and Dr Steven Blunt of the US Centres for Disease Control, are providing the policy and expert guidance for the initiative.   Walcott, as project manager, will be  collaborating with CARICOM and PAHO to provide the operational development, Greene said.    “The basic goal is to make the health system more efficient and cost effective,” Greene told the Saturday Sun.