Inniss: PAHO at the centre of Barbados’ health care transition
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has been at the forefront in the transformation of Barbados’ health care system since post-independence by providing training opportunities for health professionals and providing support during disaster.
Acting Minister of Health, Donville Inniss espoused the “Barbados in PAHO” success story during an awards ceremony and cocktail reception to honour eight health heroes at its Dayrells Road, St Michael, headquarters last night.
Giving a snapshot of Barbados’ health profile in 1966, Inniss recalled that, life expectancy at birth was 62.7 per cent for men and 67.4 per cent for women.
Additionally, one in every thousand pregnant woman died in child birth and 48 of every 1000 infants died within the first year of life. He described this situation as unacceptable indicators of health status which established the need for strong policy responses to turn the situation around.
However, the Minister noted that the island had since made significant strides in health care and pointed to its high ranking on the United Nation’s Human Development Index.
This is as a result of progressive policies in health, specifically in terms of nutrition, environment and sanitation, public health nursing and increasing allocations for child health services, especially the provision of immunisation for vaccine preventable diseases.
He also mentioned policies in associated sectors such as education, labour, housing, transport and economic development as helping to buttress the island’s social development.
The Acting Minister contended: “In all of these achievements, PAHO played a pivotal role, whether in the professional development of our health care workforce, providing fellowships for many, especially nurses who were assisted to pursue advanced training in health care specialties, as well as dental health and environmental health among other areas.”
He continued: “PAHO was also by our side providing support during times of crises such as the response to disease outbreaks or natural disasters or through technical support for programmes such as EPI, vector control, mental health, essential medicines, health systems, NCDs, family health and HIV and TB prevention and control programmes.”
Inniss said the Barbados in PAHO story represented a transformation of the island’s health care. He further stated that the adoption of the primary health care strategy ushered in the decentralisation of the delivery of health care services through the polyclinic system, ensuring more equitable access to health care for Barbadians.
He added: “Our primary health care services continue to evolve to take on board innovative approaches to health and development. There has been a growing acceptance of the need for greater inter-sectoral collaboration between Government, civil society and the private sector to bring collective action and more resources on board to help people to lead healthier lives. This approach has been embodied in our newest polyclinic, the David Thompson Health and Social Services Complex which was opened in 2015.”
During the evening’s proceedings, eight health heroes were honoured for their work in various aspects of health. Dr Elizabeth Ferdinand was rewarded for her work in PAHO’s Expanded Programme on Immunization; Noreen Merritt for diabetes awareness, prevention and education; Senator Dr Carol Jacobs for work in HIV/AIDS, and Dr Elliott Doughlin for work with non-communicable diseases.
Also recognised posthumously was Dr Oscar Jordan for his work with non-communicable diseases, Dr Ermine Belle and Dr George Mahy for their work in mental health and Dr Shirley Hanoman Jhagroo, for her work in breast cancer awareness and prevention.
The Queen Elizabeth Hospital won a special award for its Baby Friendly Initiative while PAHO staffers Sandra Jones received a long-service award and Shirley Augustine the retiree’s award.
The PAHO Barbados office was also the recipient of a framed citation presented by the Acting Minister of Health to the director of PAHO, Dr Carissa Etienne. (BGIS)