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Make Mental Health Care A Reality

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October 13, 2021 – The rising prevalence of mental health conditions in the Caribbean Region is a serious public health concern1 , and as COVID-19 continues to affect persons across the Region, there is need for urgent action to promote good mental health.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental health as a “state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”.

World Mental Health Day, observed annually on 10 October, seeks to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and to mobilize efforts in support of mental health. This year’s theme Mental Health in an Unequal World with the slogan “Mental health care for all: let’s make it a reality”, is an opportunity for all stakeholders working on mental health issues to talk about their work, and what more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for people.

“Lives have changed considerably due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as we are faced with the realities of unemployment, working from home, closure of schools and not being able to socialise as we used to. Over the past year the pandemic has had a major impact on people’s mental health especially healthcare and other frontline workers, children, women, families, homeless, people living alone, and those with pre-existing mental health conditions,” stated Dr. Tamu Davidson, Head of Chronic Diseases and Injury at CARPHA.

In the Americas, depression continues to be the leading mental health disorder, and is twice as frequent in women as in men.3 Mental and neurological disorders in the elderly, such as Alzheimer’s disease, other dementias, and depression, contribute to the burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Mental disorders can also contribute to unintentional and intentional injury. Patients who are depressed are less likely to take their medicines, and persons with chronic NCDs and disability are more likely to be depressed. Many mental health conditions can be effectively treated at relatively low cost, yet the gap between people needing care and those with access to care remains substantial.

A 2020 survey conducted by the WHO indicated that services for mental, neurological and substance use disorders had been significantly disrupted during the pandemic.

CARPHA supports its Member States through health promotion with a focus on increasing awareness about mental health and strategies to cope with mental illness, targeting the general population, children and adolescents, the elderly, women and other vulnerable populations. Emphasis has been placed on prevention, psychosocial support and coping with mental illness during the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, CARPHA included mental health as a focus of the annual Caribbean Wellness Day.

The Agency collaborates with the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization, Health Caribbean Coalition to increase awareness about mental health and reduce stigma. Achieving mental health care a reality for all, calls for a whole of society approach. Civil society, faith-based organisations and private sector and community-based organisations can support and promote mental well-being and prevent mental and substance-related disorders.

  • Health professionals are reminded of their duty of care to all persons, whether they have physical and/or mental issues.
  • Governments are urged to ensure equitable access to mental health services for all who need it.
  • Civil society organisations are encouraged to support for public education and awareness about mental illness.
  • The private sector can provide support for mental health services in employment packages and ensure that workplace policies do not discriminate against persons with mental illness.

Most of all, we as individuals need to take time for ourselves.

We need to practice healthy living to preserve mental well-being. That includes self-care, healthy eating, physical activity, positive thinking, practicing mindfulness, connecting with friends, family or pets and mindfulness, or taking time to do something we enjoy. There is no health without mental health.

This public health day is an opportunity to empower people to look after their own mental health and provide support to others. Let’s reach out and support someone with a mental illness .. make it a reality.

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Bahamas News

CARPHA Team undertakes Assessment of Guyana’s National Surveillance System for Non-communicable Diseases

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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

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Bahamas News

World Sight Day: Love Your Eyes

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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)[3]
  • 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!

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Bahamas News

RBDF Congratulates Retired Commander Defence Force on National Honour Award 

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#TheBahamas, October 13, 2021 – The Royal Bahamas Defence Force congratulates Commodore Retired Leon Livingstone Smith, who was a recipient of the 2021 National Honours Awards on October 11, 2021. 

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)

 

(For further information please contact the RBDF Public Relations Department or visit our website: www.rbdf.gov.bs, follow us on FacebookTwitter and view our Youtube channel) 

-rbdf- 

#GuardOurHeritage 

#MarlinSpike 

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