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New WHA resolution to accelerate efforts on food micronutrient fortification

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May 30, 2023 – The delegates at the Seventy-sixth World Health Assembly adopted the resolution on accelerating efforts to prevent micronutrient deficiencies through safe and effective food fortification. The resolution urges Member States to make decisions on food fortification with micronutrients and/or supplementation and to consider ways of strengthening financing and monitoring mechanisms.

Deficiencies in vitamin and mineral status, particularly of folate, iron, vitamin A, and zinc, affect 50% of all preschool aged children and 67% of all women of reproductive age (WRA) worldwide. Micronutrient deficiencies can have serious consequences, including spina bifida and other neural tube defects. These preventable deficiencies are also associated with a higher risk of blindness, fragile immune systems, diminished  exercise and physical capacity. Mothers with low micronutrient can have babies prematurely or with low birth weight. Iodine deficiency, still prevalent in many countries, impairs brain development in children, undermining their ability to learn and their eventual productivity.

Large scale food fortification (LSFF) is part of the solution. By adding essential vitamins and minerals to staple foods and condiments, such as wheat and maize flours, rice, cooking oil, and salt in accordance with national consumption patterns and deficiencies, countries can correct and further prevent a demonstrated micronutrient deficiency.

Fortification is an evidence-informed intervention that contributes to the prevention, reduction and control of micronutrient deficiencies. It can be used to correct a demonstrated micronutrient deficiency in the general population (mass or large-scale fortification) or in specific population groups (targeted fortification) such as children, pregnant women and the beneficiaries of social protection programmes.

WHO has been working in food fortification for decades and collaborates with different networks for fortification at the regional, country and community levels. WHO recommends large scale food fortification as a powerful evidence-informed and cost-effective intervention to fight the consequences of vitamin and mineral deficiencies, including iodine deficiency disorders, anaemia and iron deficiency, and neural tube defects among others.

The resolution was put forward by Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, European Union and its 27 Member States, Israel, Malaysia and Paraguay.

The resolution received a wide support from the civil society, with over 50 organizations calling on WHO to accelerate efforts on micronutrient fortification of food through a jointly signed letter. The organizations underlined in their letter that micronutrient deficiency is a crisis that affects all communities globally, low-income or high-income, and that there is still a large unfinished agenda on food fortification, calling on WHO to double the efforts to improve the reach and quality of food fortification programs, which have big potential to combat these preventable deficiencies and protect health.

The resolution was adopted under the umbrella of the United Nations Decade of Action on Nutrition (2016-2025) report. The Nutrition Decade aims to accelerate the implementation of the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) commitments, achieve the global nutrition and diet-related noncommunicable disease (NCD) targets by 2025, and contribute to the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Reflection on global progress and challenges encountered and on a way forward after the ending of the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition (2016 – 2025) is encouraged.

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Caribbean News

CARPHA Provides Technical Support for Malaria Intervention in Turks and Caicos Islands

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Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands – Wednesday, 17 July 2024: The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) recently concluded a successful mission from 8 – 12 July 2024 to provide critical technical support for malaria intervention in the Turks and Caicos Islands following an imported malaria case identified in May 2024. This visit underscores CARPHA’s commitment to enhancing public health measures and ensuring effective response to vector-borne diseases in the region.

The CARPHA team, comprised of esteemed experts, included:

  • Horace Cox, Acting Director Surveillance, Disease Prevention and Control at CARPHA
  • Rajesh Ragoo, Senior Technical Officer, Vector-Borne Disease Surveillance, Disease Prevention, and Control
  • Jenna Indarsingh, CariVecNet Coordination Officer, Vector-Borne Disease Unit

The primary objectives of this intervention were multifaceted, focusing on both theoretical and practical aspects of malaria control and prevention:

  1. Theoretical Sessions: Delivered comprehensive training on malaria epidemiology, vector biology, and bionomics to enhance the knowledge base of local health professionals.
  2. Field Activities: Conducted extensive fieldwork investigating mosquito breeding sites to detect any potential vectors of malaria parasites and discussed effective vector control measures to mitigate the spread of malaria.
  3. Surveillance and Response Review: Supported the review and enhancement of the existing malaria surveillance and response plan, including optimising reporting tools.
  4. Diagnosis and Treatment Services: Evaluated access to and quality of malaria diagnosis and treatment services, incorporating quality assurance components to ensure the highest standards of care.
  5. Action Plan Development: Assisted in the formulation of action plans aimed at resource mobilisation and community engagement activities to foster a comprehensive and sustainable malaria control strategy.

This collaborative effort between CARPHA and the Ministry of Health and Hunan Services of the Turks and Caicos Islands saw the CARPHA team working closely with the National Epidemiology and Research Unit (NERU), the National Public Health Laboratory, and the Vector Control Unit. The joint initiative aimed to strengthen local capacities and fortify the overall public health response framework against malaria.

Dr. Horace Cox, Acting Director Surveillance, Disease Prevention and Control at CARPHA, stated, “Our visit highlights the importance of regional cooperation and technical support in combating vector-borne diseases. By working closely with local health authorities, we aim to enhance their capabilities in malaria prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, ensuring better health outcomes for the community.”

Dr. Nadia Astwood, Chief Medical Officer within the Turks and Caicos Islands Ministry of Health and Human Services, commented on the collaboration: “We are grateful for the support provided by CARPHA. This intervention has significantly bolstered our efforts to prevent and control malaria in our islands. The expertise and resources brought in by the CARPHA team have been invaluable in strengthening our public health framework and ensuring our community is well-protected against malaria.”

The Turks and Caicos Islands Ministry of Health remains steadfast in its dedication to safeguarding the public against vector-borne diseases. Through continued collaboration with regional partners like CARPHA, the Ministry is committed to maintaining robust health systems and protecting the well-being of all residents.

For additional information, please visit the Ministry of Health’s Facebook page on https://m.facebook.com/tciministryofhealth/.

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Caribbean News

CARPHA Calls on Member States to Take Action to Reduce the Spread of Mosquito Borne Diseases

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Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.  5 July 2024.   Mosquito borne diseases continue to pose a serious public health threat to the Caribbean Region.  The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) has increased reports of Dengue outbreaks with hospitalisations and deaths in some instances, and recently confirmed cases of Zika, and Chikungunya at its Medical Microbiology Laboratory.

These mosquito-borne diseases can have a major impact on our way of life and our vital tourist industry on which most of our islands depend.

“The Region of the Americas has seen a two-hundred-fold increase in suspected Dengue cases in the first half of 2024, compared to the same period in 2023.  Member States are encouraged to remain vigilant. It is crucial that surveillance, prevention and control measures are boosted to reduce the transmission of arboviruses in the Caribbean,” stated Dr. Lisa Indar, Ad Interim Executive Director at CARPHA.

Dengue is known to cause outbreaks every three to five years.  The Region has seen outbreaks of Chikungunya and Zika virus infections that challenged public health systems in virtually every country in our Region.

Dr. Horace Cox, Assistant Director of Surveillance, Disease Prevention and Control, and Head Vector Borne Diseases at CARPHA: “These viral infections are transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito – a vector known to be endemic to the Region.  With the start of the hurricane season CARPHA is urging its Member States to strengthen integrated vector management strategies in their communities.  These include the elimination of mosquito breeding sites with the aim of reducing the number of mosquito larvae.”

To counter the increase in mosquitoes and potential disease transmission, greater effort should be placed on mosquito control activities in communities, and these should be intensified. CARPHA urges its Member States to review their preparedness and response plans, as well as to continue surveillance, early diagnosis, and timely care of arboviral disease cases, to prevent complications leading to hospitalisation and deaths.

Mr. Rajesh Ragoo, Senior Technical Officer for Vector-Borne Diseases at CARPHA stated “Community involvement is essential in the fight against mosquito-borne diseases. A proactive approach can help to reduce risk and keep communities safe.”

  • Check and remove standing water from around your home.  Ensure your surroundings are clean and free of materials or containers that can accumulate water around your homes and communities.
  • Use of wire-mesh/screens on doors and windows also help in reducing the entry of mosquitoes into homes.
  • Water storage drums and tanks must be properly covered and inspected periodically to ensure that there is no breeding. Roof gutters should also be cleaned to prevent water from pooling.

The mosquitoes that spread dengue are active during the day. Personal preventative measures to minimise mosquito bites are also extremely important. Vulnerable groups such as infants, young children, older adults, and women who are pregnant, or trying to get pregnant, must be extra cautious. Long-sleeved clothing and repellents containing DEET, IR3535 or lemon eucalyptus, should be used to protect exposed skin, and must be used in accordance with the instructions on the product label. Confirmed cases of mosquito borne diseases should rest under mosquito nets.

CARPHA remains committed to supporting CARPHA Member States (CMS) in their vector control efforts, including capacity building in integrated vector control strategies.  CMS must continue to strengthen prevention and control measures such as surveillance, diagnosis, as well as timely and adequate treatment of cases, while ensuring that health care services are prepared to facilitate access and proper management of patients with these diseases.

CARPHA has produced campaigns to raise awareness, promote effective prevention, and control measures for mosquito borne diseases.  Information about mosquito borne diseases can be found here:

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Caribbean News

From Awareness to Action: Public Health Matters

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July 5, 2024

 

Caribbean Public Health Day (CPHD) is celebrated annually on July 2nd to raise awareness about public health’s vital role in the lives of Caribbean people, and to highlight the work of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA). This day coincides with the anniversary of CARPHA, the region’s sole public health agency, legally established in July 2011 and operationalized in 2013 following the signing of an Intergovernmental Agreement by CARICOM Heads of Government.

This year’s CPHD theme, “From Awareness to Action: Public Health Matters,” brings to light the many daily activities that are influenced by multi-sectoral public health interventions. It also calls for individual actions to support public health efforts as we all contribute to the sustenance and development of Healthy People, Healthy Spaces and a Healthy Caribbean. By participating in local health initiatives, advocating for safe environments, and practicing and promoting healthful behaviours, we can all be champions of public health.

“Public health is more than preventing diseases; it’s a holistic approach to improving the health of people and their communities, including the air we breathe, the food we eat, our lifestyle behaviours and the environment we live in,” said Dr Lisa Indar, Ad Interim Executive Director at CARPHA when asked for comment.

Dr Mark Sami, Director of Corporate Services at CARPHA, added, “This day allows us to reflect on public health’s broader meaning. It is a right for every Caribbean citizen, and CARPHA is dedicated to being the region’s strongest advocate for healthful practices at all levels of society.”

CARPHA advances regional health under the principle that the health of the region is the wealth of the region. By promoting overall health, providing strategic direction and responding to public health priorities, implementing frameworks for disease prevention and control, supporting Member States response to health emergencies and supporting the objectives of the Caribbean Cooperation in Health (CCH), the Agency stands at the forefront of regional development.

We invite everyone to learn more about CARPHA’s role in public health and how individual actions can contribute to a healthier and safer Caribbean. Visit www.carpha.org and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, X (Twitter), and LinkedIn for more information.

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