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Caricom’s focus on health

CAROL MARTINDALE, [email protected]

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GEORGETOWN, Guyana – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) health ministers began a two-day meeting here today with a call for much more to be done to preserve the health of the region’s population, especially in areas of chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs)
The ministers attending the CARICOM Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) were meeting here under the theme Promoting Equity in Human Development through Public Health.
Guyana’s Health Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy, who is also the COHSOD chairman, said that while the region had made significant strides in health development, it had lagged in critical areas. 
Pointing to the issue of NCDs, Dr Ramsammy noted that one of the risk factors – tobacco use – was still at an alarmingly high level and that the Caribbean’s progress towards meeting its obligations to the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) was “slow at best.”
CARICOM had agreed to the implementation of the FCTC especially as it relates to Article 13 which seeks to control tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.  However, to date, three Caribbean countries have not ratified the FCTC. 
Dr Ramsammy called for the establishment of regional standards in tobacco control, adding that the proposals regarding labeling and pictorial messages on tobacco which had been supported by health ministers “have remained on the shelf of the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) and are not moving.
“If we cannot move to adequately warn the public about a substance that is a killer and acknowledge even by manufacturers that it is a killer, then the battle seems lost,” he said.
CARICOM acting Secretary-General, Ambassador Lolita Applewhaite agreed that greater investment in health was an imperative. (CMC)