The Caribbean region is a hot spot for the emergence and persistence of VBDs in the American continent. Dengue-like illnesses were recorded in the Americas since the 1600s, but the modern era of understanding started with the isolation of the dengue virus for the first time in 1943-44. The Trinidad Regional Virus Laboratory (1952-1974) and the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre (CAREC 1975-2012), which were merged into CARPHA in 2013, contributed significantly to the global understanding of the disease.
CARPHA’s mission is to provide strategic direction, in analysing, defining and responding to public health priorities of Member States in an effort to prevent disease, promote health and respond to public health emergencies. The outbreaks of Chikungunya and Zika regionally confirm to the need for increased surveillance. Additionally, with increased travel due to domestic and international tourism in the region, the potential for such threats to have a pandemic potential is great.
Over the past few years, there has been an increased interest in strengthening health systems within the Caribbean region, as most fall short of the requirements for implementing the goals of the International Health Regulations (IHR). Within the Region, a mean score of 54%, up from 50% in 2014, was reported for human resource capacity in the CARICOM States Parties Annual Reports to the 71st World Health Assembly, 2018. Of the 15 mentioned CARPHA Member States (CMS), 7 reported less than 50% for human resource capacity, 2 are at 50-79% capacity and 5 are at 80% and above. While there has been some progress, the Region still suffers from a low availability of critical skills and competencies in applied public health, and consequently, has limited capabilities to effectively respond to public health emergencies including outbreaks of mosquito-borne diseases.