Health takes centre stage in Cayman

April appears to be the month of promoting and highlighting health issues, with two major health-related conferences and a medical lab workers awareness week being held this month.

National Medical Laboratory Professionals Week, known more simply as “Lab Week”, is taking place, running from 22-28 April.

Lab Week, which is being held for the first time in Cayman, aims to bring awareness to the contributions that medical laboratory professionals make to overall healthcare.

“While these professionals usually play their role behind the scenes, quality healthcare could not be efficiently delivered without them,” said Lizzette Yearwood, chief executive officer of the Health Services Authority.

“There have been many advances in the analytical sciences in recent years and the testing performed every day in our laboratories plays a major part in helping to save lives and in lowering the cost of healthcare. They play a vital role that not only involves careful testing but also the provision of information to clinicians on how to interpret the lab test results, and how to use those results to determine the most suitable treatment.”

“Lab Week is a wonderful opportunity to acknowledge the commitment that our local lab professionals display on a daily basis and we are proud to be a part of the local team that supports this cause and look forward to the support of the community and of course interested students during our inaugural celebratory week,” said Mrs. Yearwood.

The annual Lab Week has been celebrated in the United States for the past 37 years to honour medical laboratory staff who carry out billions of lab tests each year.

Events to mark Lab Week include a church service, an exhibition of laboratory services, a Continuing Medical Education session and awards dinner.

Last week saw more than 150 medical professionals and researchers descend on Cayman to deliver papers and findings from studies carried out throughout the Caribbean.

The delegates were taking part in the 57th Annual Caribbean Health and Research Council/Caribbean Public Health Agency Scientific Conference, the largest health research conference in the English-speaking Caribbean.

Nearly 60 researchers shared their findings at the conference, which was held this year for the first time in Cayman.

Welcoming the delegates at an opening ceremony at the National Gallery on Thursday, 19 April, Minister of Health Mark Scotland said that while conferences such as this one contributed to developing healthcare initiatives, much work remained to be done in tackling non-communicable diseases, which according to the Pan American Health Organisation accounted for two out three deaths of people younger than 70 years old.

“Even as we celebrate our accomplishments as countries and as a region, the next few decades will test our resolve as we turn our focus to non-communicable diseases. Ailments such as hypertension, ischemic heart disease and stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes are the leading causes of premature death in our region,” said Mr. Scotland.

He added: “Simply put, the largest epidemic we are currently facing is the one of chronic non-communicable diseases.”

He pointed out that locally, the increase in non-communicable disease is one of the top items on Cayman’s national health agenda. “So much so that we have included, for the first time, health questions in our national census,” he said.

The results of that census showed that the top three diagnosed illnesses in Cayman are high blood pressure, diabetes and asthma. “Relevant, current and localised statistics is a key ingredient of successful national prevention and treatment programmes and as such we are also embarking – with the help of PAHO – on a national health risk factor survey,” the health minister told delegates.

Mr. Scotland said it was “heartening” to see the packed conference programme having such a strong focus on lifestyle diseases, especially as CARICOM statistics paint a grim picture of non-communicable diseases accounting for 60 per cent of the world’s burden of disease by 2020.

The Scientific Conference ended on Saturday, 22 April. It included keynote lectures, satellite meetings hosted by professional medical societies and training workshops, as well as poster displays of ongoing and completed research.

Earlier in the week, a delegation of chief medical officers from across the Caribbean met in Grand Cayman for a two-day conference.

Delegates from the Cayman Islands, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago and Turks and Caicos attended the meeting.

Most of those delegates remained in Cayman for the Scientific Research conference.

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