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KINGSTON — Director of the National STI/HIV Programme, Dr. Kevin Harvey, is encouraging regional health institutions to play a pivotal role in ensuring access to healthy foods, while reducing the incidence of non-communicable diseases.

“Having regard to the inextricable link between nutrition and non-communicable diseases (NCDs), our regional health institutions must reposition to take advantage of what could be the biggest decade for food security and nutrition,” he said.

Dr. Harvey was speaking at a joint meeting of the scientific and policy advisory committee of the Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute (CFNI), at the Wyndham Hotel in New Kingston, on July 12.

The Director argued that the time has come for the region to secure an ambitious and sustainable outcome in the prevention and control of NCDs and in improving access to safe foods, including during periods of crisis, such as natural disasters and economic recessions.

“There are many things that separate us as national states. But among the things that unite us is the compelling need to secure the agenda to achieve access to safe foods. This meeting is taking place amidst a global flurry of activities to scale up interventions in respect of non-communicable diseases,” he said.

Dr. Harvey said that the United Nations (UN) high level meeting on NCDs, scheduled for September, will address the prevention and control of NCDs worldwide with particular focus on developmental and other challenges. He added that the social and economic impacts of those diseases on developing countries will also be the subject of priority attention at the meeting.

“I see tremendous opportunities for the advancement of the priorities of the region in the area of nutrition, within the context of a stronger framework of international support. Of particular importance is the potential for capitalising on synergies among other global health initiatives,” he said.

Within Jamaica, he said the Ministries of Health; Agriculture and Fisheries; and Industry, Investment and Commerce are making the last set of amendments to the National Food Safety Policy, and informed that the concept paper for the National Infant and Young Child Feeding Policy is being drafted by the Health Ministry.

“These two policies are expected to be completed this year and will provide an integrated institutional framework for the development of food safety and food security systems in Jamaica,” he said.

Dr. Harvey emphasised that the achievements of Vision 2030 at the national level, will depend on successfully addressing the impediments to food safety and security. “There are some areas that we need to give priority focus, such as strengthening inter-sectoral collaboration, and establishing the appropriate legislative framework for food security,” he added.

Vision 2030 Jamaica is the country’s first long-term national development plan, which aims at enabling Jamaica to achieve developed country status by 2030.  It is based  on a comprehensive vision:  “Jamaica, the place of choice  to live, work, raise families and do business."                  

Dr. Harvey commended the CFNI for the work that has been accomplished in the areas of policy, surveillance, research, human resource development and public education and promotion.

“The developments that are taking place globally (and) at the regional level, with respect to regional health institutions, are opening up opportunities for a more aggressive and progressive agenda for food safety and security,” he said.

Representatives from six Health Ministries in the region, including Antigua and Barbuda, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Kitts, St. Vincent, Grenada and Jamaica attended the meeting.  

The CFNI is a specialised centre of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), which was established in 1967 to forge a regional approach to solving the nutrition problems of the Caribbean.

                                                                       

By CHRIS PATTERSON, JIS Reporter