June 10, 2021 – The Caribbean region joins with the global community in celebrating World Food Safety Day (WFSD). As of 2018, WFSD is celebrated each year on 7 June, and is aimed at drawing attention and inspiring action, at all levels and from all sectors, to prevent, detect and manage foodborne risks.
By doing this, we all share a responsibility in contributing to food security, human health, economic prosperity, agriculture, access to regional and international markets, tourism, and sustainable development.
This year’s theme, “Safe food today for a healthy tomorrow”, highlights the need of sustainable production systems to ensure the health of people, the planet, and the economy in the long-term. It is important to recognize that the health of people, animals and the environment is interconnected, and that any safety adverse event may have a global impact on public health, trade and economy. This can pose rather detrimental to the sustainable development of Caribbean States. CARPHA acknowledges this and works with our Member States to develop an integrative approach to the surveillance of foodborne illness.
This multi-sectoral, “One Health” approach requires engagement and collaboration from many parties. Some of these include agriculture, environmental management, animal health, abattoirs, pharmaceutical industry, health and laboratory diagnostics. A collaborative approach is required to address good food production and handling practices, climate change and food safety and traceability to outbreaks and hazards.
The Caribbean continues to encounter multiple threats to food security and safety. Some of these threats include climate change, emerging diseases, and issues in border control and security. Unemployment and poverty, worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, result in food insecurity and limits people’s access to safer, healthier food options.
On 3rd June 2021, Dr. Lisa Indar, CARPHA Director for Surveillance Disease Prevention and Control (SDPC), presented at World Food Safety Day for Latin America and the Caribbean.
This virtual meeting was hosted by multiple regional organisations in food safety and security, such as the Food and Agriculture Organization, Pan American Health Organization, Pan American Center for Foot-and-Mouth Disease and Veterinary Public Health, and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture.
Dr. Indar stressed that food must be healthy, safe, available, and affordable to all in our Region. She lamented those foodborne diseases are preventable, yet the burden of illness remains high for the Region. Many outbreaks are underreported, and the burden of illness falls heavily on infants, elderly persons, pregnant women, the immunocompromised and persons experiencing poverty.
In the Caribbean, 1 in 49 people fall ill from a foodborne disease. At mass gatherings, such as Carnivals and at family events for the holidays, 1 in 11 people fall ill. Caribbean countries have been estimated to spend 21 million USD annually, in managing and addressing foodborne diseases.
The Caribbean’s population is exposed to multiple disease-causing agents, which are bacterial, parasitic, and viral in origin. Norovirus, Campylobacter, Giardia and Salmonella spp. contribute to the greatest burden of illness and hospitalizations. Diseases from seafood, namely vibriosis and ciguatera toxicosis are health concerns faced by some Caribbean States. The ecology of these mentioned disease agents is also influenced by climate change. Increasing air and water surface temperatures and worsening floods and storms will increase the risk of exposure to many persons, pets and food-producing animals.
Foodborne diseases are a priority for the Caribbean’s travel and tourism sector. Globally, the Caribbean continues to stand as the premier visitor destination for tourists. The tourism and travel sector contribute 40-60% of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) for some of our countries. Ensuring a healthier, safer destination, is critical for many Caribbean States, as we market ourselves as a safe option for travel, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Disease outbreaks at hotels and on cruise ships often lead to reputational damage and a loss in income to the involved industry and the country.
To effectively address these challenges, and to build resilience for the tourism sector, CARPHA has implemented an innovative, near real-time surveillance system called the Tourism and Health Information System (THiS). This surveillance system provides an early-warning and mitigation of foodborne outbreaks at Caribbean hotels and stay-in accommodations. To date, CARPHA has trained over 600 facilities in the Region in the use of THiS.
In collaboration with our regional stakeholders, CARPHA has trained and built capacity in multiple Member States in sampling, testing, disease investigation and risk communication. Our Member States continue to benefit from an integrated, One Health approach to preventing and managing foodborne disease outbreaks. Graduates of the CARPHA Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program (FELTP) have been instrumental in investigating foodborne outbreaks in countries. Our Environmental Health and Sustainable Development (EHSD) department conducts testing on food and environmental samples. The Caribbean Medical Microbiology Laboratory (CMML) is equipped to conduct molecular testing and isolation for isolated pathogens and stool samples.
CARPHA will continue to support and build capacity for the implementation of multisectoral, integrative surveillance for foodborne diseases. We are currently scaling up our surveillance and response measures to foodborne illness. CARPHA aims to work with its Member States in food safety and security to ensure a safe today, for a healthy tomorrow.
CARPHA Team undertakes Assessment of Guyana’s National Surveillance System for Non-communicable Diseases
October 14, 2021 – The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) conducted a technical mission to Guyana from September 22nd – 25th, 2021 to undertake site visits as a part of an ongoing assessment of six (6) Member States’ systems for the national surveillance of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and their risk factors. This activity was implemented in collaboration with the Ministry of Health Guyana through an Agence Française de Développement (AFD) – funded project.
The aim of the assessment s to provide evidence in support of the development of a Regional Surveillance System for NCDs, a priority under the regional health framework Caribbean Cooperation in Health IV (2016-2025).
During the mission, the CARPHA technical team reviewed the capacity of existing surveillance mechanisms in Guyana to collect, analyse and report on the NCDs and risk factor indicators proposed for the regional surveillance system. These indicators were recommended by a multi-stakeholder meeting series convened in 2020 under the AFD project, which reviewed global, regional, and sub-regional mandates, targets and practices in surveillance for the prevention and control of NCDs.
The CARPHA Team along with senior officials from the Ministry of Health conducted visits to two (2) health centres, the National Cancer Registry, Ministry of Health Surveillance, and Statistics Unit. The results from the overall assessment will be presented to the Ministry of Health Guyana and will also be reviewed alongside results from similar assessments in Anguilla, Aruba, Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Suriname to inform the finalisation of the regional surveillance system design through a regional stakeholder meeting.
The regional NCDs surveillance system would facilitate the reporting and availability of data to inform policy development, planning, and tracking of progress towards meeting for targets NCDs at Regional and National levels.
Through funding from the Agence Française de Développement (AFD), CARPHA is leading the Region in Strengthening Strategic Intelligence and Partnership Approaches to prevent and control NCDs and Strengthen Regional Health Security in the Caribbean. This project, signed in 2019 with a value of €1,500,000.00, demonstrates the commitment of the Government of France and the French people to supporting the public health priorities of the Caribbean Community through CARPHA.
More information on the Project can be found at: https://www.carpha.org/Projects/Ongoing-Projects/Strengthening-Strategic-Intelligence-and-Partnership-Approaches-To-Prevent-and-Control-NCDs-and-Strengthen-Regional-Health-Security-In-The-Caribbean
World Sight Day: Love Your Eyes
Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. 14 October, 2021. In the Caribbean, the leading causes of blindness are glaucoma, cataract and diabetic retinopathy (a complication of diabetes). According to the Vision Atlas, 6.2 million persons in the Caribbean were reported to have vision loss, with an estimated 260,000 persons reported to be blind in 2020.
Information gathered from eighteen (18) Caribbean countries (Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Belize, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago) with a population of 44 million, showed that the crude prevalence of blindness was 0.60%, and the prevalence of all vision loss was 13.20%. Many of the persons affected were females at 52%.
Global statistics reveal that for 2020, a total of 596 million persons had distance vision impairment worldwide, of this number 43 million were blind. Projections for 2050, indicate that an estimated 885 million persons may be affected by distance vision impairment with 61 million expected to experience blindness.
CARPHA’s vision for the Caribbean is a region where the health and wellness of the people are promoted and protected from disease, injury and disability, thereby enabling human development in keeping with the belief that the health of the Region is the wealth of the Region.
Although there are no projects that directly address vision impairment, CARPHA in collaboration with its public health partners is implementing initiatives to address risk factors such as unhealthy diets, use of harmful substances and poor physical activities. This in turn, will help reduce the risk of disability due to complications associated with poor blood sugar and blood pressure management.
Efforts to improve the standards of care for diabetes through the implementation of the CARPHA Guidelines on the Management of Diabetes in Primary Care in the Caribbean, and training of health care workers from the CARPHA Member States will also contribute to the prevention of vision impairment and blindness due to diabetes.
Access to eye care services can reduce visual impairment. CARPHA urges Member States to strengthen health systems to improve eye health services with emphasis on reaching the vulnerable and those most in need. Governments should commit to integrating eye care into the universal health care system.
World Sight Day is celebrated annually on the second Thursday in October. The focus of the day is to bring awareness to blindness and vision impairment as a major public health issue and blindness prevention.
The 2021 commemoration observed on 14th October, seeks to encourage persons to think about the ‘importance of their own eye health.’
Our eyes are working hard during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have been indoors, in front of our screens, and probably missed our eye test appointments. Now more than ever, we need to protect and prioritize our eyesight. There are simple things you can do for yourself to prevent the development of serious eye issues:
- Take screen breaks for at least five minutes every hour
- Spend time outside. Increased outdoor time can reduce the risk of myopia (near-sightedness)
- Get an eye test. A complete eye exam can detect eye conditions such as glaucoma before it has an effect on your sight. The earlier an eye condition is identified, the easier it is to treat.
- Eat a healthy balanced diet and engage in physical activity. These are crucial steps in maintaining a healthy weight, controlling obesity, and preventing diseases such as diabetes, all of which can impact eye health.
- If you have diabetes, you should have your eyes checked every year
Your sight cannot be taken for granted. It is time to LOVE YOUR EYES!
RBDF Congratulates Retired Commander Defence Force on National Honour Award
During a ceremony at the British Colonial Hilton Hotel, West Bay Street, Commodore Smith was presented with the Order of Distinction within the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, by Governor-General, the Most Honorable Sir Cornelius A. Smith. Also in attendance were his daughter, Mrs. Italia Seymour, and the Commander Defence Force, Commodore Dr. Raymond King.
Commodore Smith was one of sixteen other deserving individuals recognized on National Heroes Day for the vast contributions they made to the development of the country. The first Bahamian Officer to be appointed as Commander Defence Force, he is the longest-serving Commodore to serve this office from 1983 to 1997.
Throughout his military career, he received numerous awards and accolades, and his career in public life spanned over forty years, and on September 19, 2014, an RBDF Legend Class Vessel bearing his name was commissioned. The Royal Bahamas Defence Force is truly grateful for the devoted services of Commodore Smith to the organization and his country.
Commander Defence Force, Commodore Dr. Raymond King extends congratulations on his behalf of the members of his Executive Command, Officers, Senior Enlisted, and Junior Enlisted members of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, to Commodore Retired Leon Smith, on his great accomplishment.
Header: Commodore Retired Leon Smith being presented with the Order of Distinction within the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, by Governor-General, the Most Honorable Sir Cornelius A. Smith on October 11, 2021, during a ceremony at the British Colonial Hilton Hotel, West Bay Street.
Insert: Commodore Retired Leon Smith along with recipients of the 2021 National Honours Awards on October 11, 2021, during a ceremony at the British Colonial Hilton Hotel, West Bay Street.
(RBDF Photos by Able Seaman Paul Rolle II)
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