Five Caribbean health-related organisations will merge under an umbrella agency legally formed at a CARICOM summit of heads of government in St. Kitts and Nevis last weekend.
The new Caribbean Public Health Agency became a legal entity when 10 regional heads of government signed an agreement Saturday, 2 July, that formed the legal basis for the new organisation.
Speaking ahead of the signing, St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Denzil Douglas, CARICOM Lead Head for Human Resources, Health, HIV and AIDS said: “The creation of CARPHA, is not just about a new institution, it is a commitment to our people, our visitors, our international counterparts in health and development, for a healthier, forward-looking Caribbean that plays its role effectively in tackling the public health aspects of disease, disaster and lifestyle challenges in an increasingly globalised world.”
He added: “CARPHA represents a once-in-a-generation development, for the benefit of every generation to come.”
The Caribbean Public Health Agency will merge five regional health institutes in the Caribbean – the Caribbean Epidemiological Research Centre, known as CAREC; Caribbean Health Research Council; Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute; Caribbean Environmental Health Institute; and the Caribbean Regional Drug Testing Laboratory.
The Cayman Islands, an associate member of CARICOM, was not required to be one of the signatories to the agreement which needed signatures from a minimum of eight heads of government of countries that are full members of CARICOM to enable the agency to be formed.
Cayman currently pays quota contributions to three of the regional entities that will merge when the new agency begins operating – CAREC, the Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute and the Caribbean Health Research Council.
The Caribbean Public Health Agency aims to provide a collective response to public health challenges for the residents and visitors to the Caribbean, including health-related responses to disasters and longer-term problems associated with lifestyle diseases, such as obesity, cancer and heart disease.
The signing of the inter-governmental agreement at the 32nd Annual Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community means that the newly formed agency’s executive board can be appointed and implementation team be recruited.
CARICOM heads of government decided to create the Caribbean Public Health Agency in March 2010. It is expected to begin operations on a phased basis from 2012 and will be located in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, from 2014.
Speaking at the closure of the summit Monday, 4 July, Mr. Douglas said the establishment of the agency was fitting as it came at CARICOM’s observance of the 10th anniversary of the Nassau Declaration, which prescribed the health of the region as the wealth of the region.
The Caribbean Public Health Agency was the third and final component of the 2001 Nassau Declaration to be realised, following the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS and the Caribbean Cooperation in Health.