Minister of Health Leads in Setting the Regional Health Agenda

Minister of Health Wellness and the Environment the Honourable Molwyn Joseph guided discussions between Caribbean Ministers of Health and Dr. Carissa Etienne, Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) in Geneva on May 21 2019. Issues important to the region that were discussed included chronic non-communicable diseases, universal health coverage including primary health care and climate change and health.  Countries shared their experiences and progress in measures to control obesity such as enacting legislation on taxes for sugar sweetened beverages, developing policies on physical activity and regulating the quality and content of imported foods. Dr. Rudolph Cummings, Programe Manager (Health) at the CARICOM Secretariat updated Ministers on the front of package labeling for foods in the region. There was particular concern on the reduced physical activity in children and the nutritional content of food sold at schools.

Ministers also expressed concern about the measles outbreaks in the United States, Europe and the United Kingdom and the continued risk of the re-introduction of the disease into the Caribbean.  The region, including Antigua and Barbuda has been declared measles free and PAHO emphasized the need for countries to maintain high vaccination coverage. PAHO also urged countries to be vigilant and investigate all possible measles cases thoroughly. Last year health officials in Antigua and Barbuda successfully contained an imported case of measles.

The annual meeting between the Ministers of Health and PAHO officials is held on the margins of the World Health Assembly. Minister Joseph also attended the Commonwealth Ministers of Health Meeting in Geneva on Sunday 19th May 2019. There Minister Joseph updated the Commonwealth Secretariat on the progress Antigua and Barbuda has made in addressing gender based violence. These included updates on the now fully functional Sexual and Reproductive Crisis Center and the Sexual Offences Model Court.  Minister Joseph was accompanied by Dr. Rhonda Sealey-Thomas, Chief Medical Officer.