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More Money, Extended Services & Support for Mental Health approved at TCI Cabinet



By Deandrea Hamilton & Dana Malcolm

Editorial Staff


#TurksandCaicos, July 25, 2022 – The Mental Health and Substance Dependence Department of the Turks and Caicos Islands Government TCIG has been approved for more financial resources and now, added to the areas of support under the National Health Insurance Plan are psychiatric care and medication for individuals clinically diagnosed as in need of mental health treatment.

The approvals came in the July 8th Cabinet meeting and have the potential to radically impact, for the better, the well-being of those in the islands struggling with mental health issues.

The approvals follow a tragic and heart breaking incident in June where a young man, Garrick Tucker, died in a car accident after his mother repeatedly warned that her son was acting erratically and sought help from the department of Health and Human Services and the police but did not receive it.

The Government says the extra money for the Mental Health Department will be reallocated from the Primary Health Care Department.  They say this will allow an increase in mental health support across the islands.  The increase is much needed as several calls have come from Islanders this year alone in regards to suspected mentally ill people around them who need help.  The government did not however indicate whether this boost to the Department will be permanent.

In addition to the extra money the TCIG has approved a Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Health and the National Health Insurance Board to cover the costs of psychiatric medications for persons with mental health issues across the TCI.  The decision will reduce the cost of psychiatric medications making them more accessible to residents on the islands.

These upgrades to the mental health services on the islands come as the government puts the finishing touches on its own mental health clinic to be located in Grand Turk.  The facility is almost completely staffed.

Currently mentally ill individuals who need rehabilitation or are criminally incarcerated are sent to either Jamaica or the UK.

Jamell Robinson, Minister of Health indicated during a press conference in June that with the construction of the mental health facility “we would be able to bring home many of our residents treated overseas.”

The new facility is slated to be up and running by the end of the year.

Caribbean News

CARPHA Observes World No Tobacco Day



Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, June 5, 2023 –   Tobacco use remains a major public health concern in the Caribbean Region. There is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke. The use of tobacco products in any form harms nearly every organ of the body, irrespective of whether it is smoked, smokeless, or electronic.  Of all the forms of tobacco use, most common in the Caribbean region is cigarette smoking.   Cigarette smoking is the number one risk factor for lung cancer. Using other tobacco products such as cigars or pipes also increases the risk for this disease.

Second-hand smoke exposure causes stroke, lung cancer, and coronary heart disease in adults; and acute respiratory infections and severe asthma in children. It is a preventable risk factor for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), which are the leading cause of death, disease and disability among Caribbean people.

This year, World No Tobacco Day focuses on Grow Food, Not Tobacco. This campaign advocates for ending tobacco cultivation and switching to more sustainable crops that improve food security and nutrition. The campaign observed annually on 31 May, also informs the public on the dangers of direct use, and exposure to tobacco.

In the Caribbean Region, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are the leading cause of death and disability – 76.8% of the total deaths (non-Latin Caribbean, excluding Haiti) were due to NCDs in 2016. Cardiovascular diseases 30.8% and cancer 17.2% are the leading causes of death due to NCD, both linked to tobacco use. Many of these persons die in the prime of their lives before the age of 70 years old. The prevalence of smokers for overall tobacco products ranged from 57.2% prevalence (95%CI 48.4 to 65.4%) to 16.2% (95%CI 11.2 to 23.0%). According to the Report on Tobacco Control in the Region of the Americas (2018) Caribbean countries have the highest levels of tobacco experimentation before the age of 10.

Dr. Joy St. John, Executive Director at the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) “Smokeless does not mean harmless.  Nicotine in e-cigarettes is a highly addictive drug and can damage children’s developing brains.  Children and adolescents who use e-cigarettes at least double their chance of smoking cigarettes later in life.  Preventing tobacco product use among youth is therefore critical.  It is important that we educate children and adolescents about the harms of nicotine and tobacco product use. We must work to prevent future generations from seeing such products as “normal”.”

In 2008, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) endorsed the recommendation to ban smoking in public spaces.  Later, in 2012, CARICOM regulated a standard for labelling retail packages of tobacco products with health warnings. Caribbean civil society organisations (CSOs), working in collaboration with local governments and international partners, have led the charge in fighting for significant gains in tobacco control in the Caribbean region.

Dr Heather Armstrong, Head, Chronic Disease and Injury: “At CARPHA, we believe that reducing the harm caused by tobacco use requires a collective approach, where government, civil society, and the individual play a critical role. CARPHA promotes the prevention of tobacco use in all forms and commitment to the WHO FCTC. The focus on tobacco control deals with the youth of the Region.   Children and adolescents who use e-cigarettes at least double their chance of smoking cigarettes later in life.”

The Chronic Diseases and Injury Department of CARPHA provides leadership, strategic direction, coordinates and implements technical cooperation activities directed towards the prevention and control of NCDs in CARPHA Member States. CARPHA’s message for prevention of tobacco product use has spread across its Member States.

In 2018, CARPHA in partnership with the University of the West Indies (UWI), Global Health Diplomacy Program at the University of Toronto, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), and the Healthy Caribbean Coalition evaluated the Port of Spain Declaration to learn which mandates helped to prevent and control NCDs. Taxation, smoke-free public places mandate, and mandatory labelling of tobacco products are some of the leading policies making the biggest impact on reduction of tobacco use in the Caribbean regions.

CARPHA urges Member States to work together to prevent and reduce the use of all forms of tobacco products, and scale-up efforts to implement their commitments under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).  By doing so, the negative impact of smoking and its consequences on the health of our people, especially the younger generation, and the tremendous burden on the economies of the countries in our Region, will greatly be reduced.

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Caribbean News

Hunger rates rise in Latin America and the Caribbean



Rashaed Esson

Staff Writer



June 5, 2023 – It’s an unfortunate reality for Latin America and the Caribbean as the number of people suffering from hunger surged by 30 percent;  56 million people now facing hunger, a large increase from 43 million in 2019.

It was revealed by Mario Lubetkin,  Deputy Director General and Regional Representative for Latin America and the Caribbean of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), where he further informed that the war in Ukraine, COVID-19, and the ongoing climate crisis are to blame for the surge.

Regarding the climate crisis, he emphasized that climate related challenges are on the rise as the region experiences combinations of droughts and floods; and to combat this, he expressed that proactive measures should be put in place to prepare farmers for potential severe impacts.

To help mitigate the surge in hunger rate, he put forth a three fold approach.

The first is the importance of effectively managing the current situation by whatever means necessary; for the second, he fingered the need for the creation of sufficient funds to mitigate the impact on farmers, for the third, he highlighted the need for collaboration among Governments, public sectors, and private sectors in order to mollify the burden of rising prices on consumers.

These highlighted efforts are in line with the aspirations and duties of the FAO which is devoted to supporting family farming, which makes up 80 percent of the workforce in the Agriculture sector.

Additionally, Lubetkin spoke of FAO’s commitment to quality products and brought attention to the United Nations Decade of Family Farming, which is geared towards  eradicating hunger, ensuring food security, and promoting sustainable development in rural areas.

The organization also aims to enhance food security, a needed element in the regions, through innovation and digitization processes for example “1,000 digital villages,” one of their projects  aids countries in using  digital tools in agri-food systems and rural territories.

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Better Health for Indigenous population in Americas



Rashaed Esson

Staff Writer



June 5, 2023 – A new resolution has been approved by health ministers from CARICOM alongside their counterparts in the Americas to accelerate actions to improve health for the indigenous populations.

With the resolution, countries will develop finance and put in place national health clients for the indigenous population.  This will ensure that they receive equal rights, that is their  access to the highest attainable physical health services.

Measures will be implemented to combat the social determinants of health, such as poverty, poor housing, and lack of access to education, economic opportunities, and water and sanitation which all unfortunately affects the indigenous populations immensely.

It also seeks to foster investment into the training of indigenous health care workers; and it plans to safely incorporate evidence-based traditional and complementary medicine into Indigenous health services.

Additionally, generating more disaggregated data, enabling countries to broaden their knowledge of the specific health situation of Indigenous populations, which is another goal highlighted, and can attract more improvements for the indigenous people as more countries will be informed.

Furthermore, an intercultural and intersectoral approach in the development of Indigenous health policies that overcome barriers pertaining to gender, geographic location, age, language, digital connectivity, was stressed by countries of the Americas, and for good reason as those barriers are influential in the low health standards.

Dr. Marcos Espinal, Assistant Director of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), highlighted the necessity and urgency of the resolution.

He pointed to the fact that indigenous peoples in the Americas are more prone to experience higher rates of infectious disease like tuberculosis, as well as increased levels of non communicable diseases like diabetes. Also, for women, that is indigenous women maternal  health care is of very low quality and so, the resolution will improve it alongside adolescent health care including access to sexual and reproductive health services.

“This is why this resolution is so crucial for our region, because it is based on strategies that address the specific environmental and social contexts in which Indigenous persons live,” he added.

The resolution came on Tuesday May 30th during the 76th World Health Assembly (WHA), and is anticipated  to have significant implications for the Americas, home to more than 62 million Indigenous persons.

The Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) said it will continue to work with countries of the Americas to ensure the health of Indigenous Populations.

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