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EDITORIAL – Preparing for health rights at UN

luigimarshall, [email protected]

EDITORIAL – Preparing for health rights at UN

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CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY health ministers concluded their conference in Guyana last week on a high note of optimism for the region’s readiness to play an active role in the forthcoming United Nations high level meeting on The Prevention And Control Of Chronic Non-Communicable Diseased (CNCDs) scheduled for September 19 to 20.
The optimism is consistent with CARICOM’s initiatives at various fora within recent years, including the hosting in Port-of-Spain in 2007 of the first Heads of Government Summit in the Americas to last month’s meeting in Mexico with a specific “declaration’ for the coming UN event.. 
The latter resulted in what is now being referenced as the “Mexico Declaration” ahead of the UN meeting on effective ways to combat non-communicable diseases as an international challenge. Barbados had hosted the preparatory meeting for the Mexico encounter that set the tone for this region’s expectations.
Health ministers who participated in last week’s 21st meeting of CARICOM’s Council on Human and Social Development (COSHOD) would be fully aware of the overall challenges facing this region from non-communicable diseases that account for the highest percentage of deaths, with major contributors being hypertension, heart attack, cancer, diabetes, stroke and obesity.
The serious challenges facing social and economic development in the region as a direct consequence of spreading non-communicable diseases, are located in the 2005 report of the blue-ribbon Caribbean Commission on Health and Development chaired by the first-Caribbean national to serve as director of the PanAmerican Health Organization, Sir George Alleyne of Barbados.
The commission had placed emphasis on the need to treat health care as an investment in the development of the region and access to health care as moral and human rights obligations.
That concept was to also inform the welcome address by COSHOD chairman, Guyana’s Minister of Health Dr Leslie Ramsammy who urged CARICOM to avoid a path whereby people were deprived of health care, as it was a moral and human rights issue and, therefore, should be preserved as such in the region’s health care system.
If there is indeed a consensus within CARICOM on the way forward in that issue, and consistent with implementation of the 2005 report of the Caribbean Commission On Health And Development, then the immediate challenge would be to ensure that free access to health care in the public health sector is reflected in what it would like embraced at the UN meeting.
After all, this was the official sentiment expressed at the COSHOD meeting with Jamaica being identified for “full support” from CARICOM as one of the sponsors of the impending UN resolution on combating non-communicable diseases across the globe.