CARICOM Chairman challenges first Executive Board of CARPHA

(Left to Right) – Chairman of CARICOM and Spokesman for Health and Human Services, St. Kitts and Nevis’ Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas; PAHO Director, Dr. Mirta Roses Periago and CARICOM Secretariat Deputy Secretary-General Ambassador Lolita Applewhaite at a recent meeting chaired by Dr. Douglas to form CARPHA at PAHO Headquarters in Washington DC.

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, SEPTEMBER 28TH 2011 (CUOPM) – CARICOM Chairman and St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister, Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas has challenged the Executive Board of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).

Delivering the feature address at the Inaugural Meeting, Dr. Douglas challenged the Board to chart a course for the sustainability of the regional public health agency. This, he added, required creative leadership and commitment.

He told the gathering of health ministers, health practitioners and international development partners that CARICOM had exercised due diligence and concluded that CARPHA was the most expedient way to organize and service the Region’s public health agenda.

“We therefore expect the Executive Board to be the vanguard in the accelerated approach for this Region’s public health agenda,” said Prime Minister Douglas.

He made the point that the agenda must focus on mitigating natural disasters, to which the Region was prone, adding that “It must contribute to an environment in which our health conditions are conducive to enabling our tourism industry to attract patrons. It must foster institutional strengthening of our health delivery systems with greater emphasis on health promotion and disease prevention. It must increase awareness of the public about the effects of toxic wastes and pollutants on their health. It must place emphasis on assuring the safety of our communities as well as workers’ health.”

Guyana Minister of Health, and Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Council of Human and Social Development (COHSOD) Dr. the Honourable Leslie Ramsammy is the first chairman of the Executive Board of the new Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).

Dr. Ramsammy’s appointment is in accordance with Article 9 Section 3 of the Inter- Governmental Agreement which established CARPHA as a legal entity. The Article states that the Chair of COHSOD “shall be the Chair of the Executive Board of CARPHA.”

The new 14-member Board and its Chairman were installed at the Inaugural Meeting of CARPHA on Friday, September 23, at the PAHO Headquarters in Washington. Its members are: Senator the Honourable Anne Peters, Minister of Health, Grenada; Dr. Alex Larsen, Haiti; Honourable Richard Viser, Minister of Health, Aruba; Dr. Rhonda Sealy Thomas, CMO, Antigua and Barbuda; Dr. Marceline Dahl-Regis, CMO, Bahamas; Mrs. Shirla Francis, Permanent Secretary, St. Vincent and the Grenadines; Dr. Marthelise Eersel, Director of Health, Suriname; Dr. Irad Porter, CMO, British Virgin Islands; Dr. Socorro Gross, Deputy Director, PAHO; Dr. Jean-Loup Chappert, epidemiologist, for the Regional Health Department, Guadeloupe; Ms Antonia Popplewell, Permanent Secretary, Trinidad and Tobago; Ms Myrna Bernard, Officer in Charge of Human and Social Development Directorate, CARICOM Secretariat; Mr. Gerard Guillet, Permanent Representative, IPO and Latin America Centre for Population Communication (CEPALC)

CARICOM Heads of Government approved the new public health agency in March 2010. CARPHA’s purpose is to integrate the functions of the five Regional Health Institutions and build on public health knowledge and expertise across the Caribbean, preventing duplication of effort and resources. This will facilitate a co-ordinated approach to public health issues including managing the risk of disease outbreaks in the Region.

The CARPHA Board has responsibility for charting the directions of CARPHA by approving its strategic plan, appointments to staff positions and the technical advisory committees; by devising mechanisms for the prompt exchange of information among its members and between the Board and the various stakeholders; by promoting cooperation in education and public awareness; by supervising the mobilization and disbursement of resources and all other fiduciary matters related to accountability and good governance.

In this context, CARICOM Secretariat Deputy Secretary-General Ambassador Lolita Applewhaite acknowledged that the Board would have a challenging task because the agency was the first of its kind in the Region. However, she pointed to the fact that there was an articulated vision to guide them, and expressed confidence that the Board – under the leadership of the longest serving CARICOM Minister of Health – would respond to the challenges and “emerge with flying colours.”

“As the Community endeavours to accelerate the CSME process, CARPHA has a vital role to play in demonstrating the value of health to development and increasing the benefits of ‘health for all’ by contributing toward the reduction of health inequities,” she concluded.

The Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) Director, Dr. Mirta Roses Periago, in commending the new Board, noted that the CARPHA governance structure was critical to balancing the agency’s mandates with Member States’ priorities and needs against the agendas of different stakeholders.

“The Executive Board will play a critical role in ensuring such balance is maintained, she asserted.

Dr. Roses Periago added that In line with the principles of functional cooperation and regional integration, CARPHA should be the leading agency in addressing the common public health challenges faced by the CARICOM Member States, as identified in the third iteration of the Caribbean Cooperation in Health (CCH III).

The PAHO Director pledged her organisation’s continued support to CARPHA, especially in the area of resource mobilisation, noting that PAHO would continue to explore mechanisms that fostered close collaboration with CARPHA to realize better health outcomes for the Caribbean.

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