The Most Hon. Andrew Holness Chair, Conference Heads of Government, CARICOM

Photo: OPM Photo Prime Minister Andrew Holness at a High-Level Meeting of twenty Heads of Government yesterday (Wednesday, September 26) where he was designated Co-Chair of the UN Climate Change Initiative.

Story Highlights

  • I wish to add my own words of welcome to this event, as we critically discuss the health and wellbeing of our region’s most valuable resource, our people.
  • The Caribbean has the highest mortality and obesity rates in the Americas, with Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) accounting for 3 out of every 4 deaths. Sadly, a significant amount occurs during our most productive years with forty percent (40%) occurring between the ages of 30 and 39 years.
  • Poor households are more vulnerable to the risk factors of NCDs and having an NCD can wipe-out a family’s entire income. NCDs are recognized as a threat to development and wellbeing generally and are captured in Sustainable Development Goal 3.4 – which seeks by 2030, to reduce by one third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and wellbeing.

I wish to add my own words of welcome to this event, as we critically discuss the health and wellbeing of our region’s most valuable resource, our people.

The Caribbean has the highest mortality and obesity rates in the Americas, with Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) accounting for 3 out of every 4 deaths. Sadly, a significant amount occurs during our most productive years with forty percent (40%) occurring between the ages of 30 and 39 years.

Poor households are more vulnerable to the risk factors of NCDs and having an NCD can wipe-out a family’s entire income. NCDs are recognized as a threat to development and wellbeing generally and are captured in Sustainable Development Goal 3.4 – which seeks by 2030, to reduce by one third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and wellbeing.

More than a decade ago, the CARICOM Heads of Government catalyzed a global movement when it held the first ever Summit on NCDs creating a 15-point agenda to tackle NCDs. Recognizing that NCDs remain a major challenge to health of our populations, we have again elevated this to the UN development agenda for prioritization of efforts to reduce risk factors.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, I am pleased to bring to the fore, some of the major achievements of CARICOM stemming from the Port of Spain Declaration: all countries have in place a National NCD plan and several territories have established NCD Commissions. There has also been agreement on the framework and monitoring tool that guides the Region’s response. We have also achieved regional standards for tobacco labeling and evaluation of the country response, along with the ratification of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) by all but one CARICOM Member State. We have increased public awareness, countries in the Region observe Caribbean Wellness Day by all, along with various public education efforts and we have systems of surveillance and tracking of NCDs and the associated risk factors.

Partnership is critical to our progress and work is ongoing with the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), CARICOM Regional Organization for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) and The Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) to tackle Childhood Obesity and Tobacco use. I want to single out for mention the Healthy Caribbean Coalition who has played a pivotal role in the fight against NCDs. The Health Caribbean Coalition has become the leading Regional Civil Society Response and advocacy for NCDs for the past 10 years in partnership with CARICOM Governments and we are proud to say that this partnership is now a global best practice.

The Coalition partnered with World Diabetes Federation and the Ministry of Health of Jamaica to host a Regional Multisectoral NCD Forum in April of this year and the Caribbean NCD Forum supported national and regional advocacy in the Caribbean in the lead up to this 3rd UN High-Level Meeting on NCDs.

I wish to add my congratulations to the Healthy Caribbean Coalition as it commemorates a milestone anniversary. This commemoration is significant, as it is important to remember where we are coming from and to take stock of where we need to go.

I am pleased to report that at the 39th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community in July of this year, agreed on six (6) priorities and they were endorsed by all Heads of State. These priorities are to guide Member States in the negotiation of the Outcome Document for the Third High Level Meeting on NCDs.

The priorities are establishing and maintaining a smoke-free status for the Region; implementing policies geared to preventing Childhood Obesity, including for health-promoting school environments and Front of Package (FOP) labelling; promoting the elimination of cancer of the cervix; support for mitigation of post disaster vulnerabilities related to NCDs in particular nutrition, treatment and care; increasing international financing and technical support and strengthening accountability in particular through national coordinating mechanisms.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, the health of our people is the wealth of our nations and we must remain steadfast and committed to the cause of fighting NCDs, as we move our people to a healthier life. I implore all of us to step it up and to move in our own countries. I wish to acknowledge my own Minister of Health. He has launched a very important campaign in Jamaica. He has got me moving and I’m hoping that the entire Caribbean will take on this initiative and let’s get the Caribbean moving.

Thank you

JIS Social