CARPHA and its international donor partners, reaffirmed their commitment to supporting and strengthening surveillance for improving global health security in the Region. This discussion took place at the recently concluded meeting of the Chief Medical Officers (CMOs). The reinforcement of these important initiatives is critical for strengthening the Region’s ability to respond to public health emergencies, like the COVID-19 pandemic, in the future.
During the two-day meeting hosted by CARPHA with support from the European Union (EU) and the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), various speakers presented an overview of CARPHA’s robust suite of services and partnerships that support public health surveillance and health security in the Region.
The World Health Organization defines Global Health Security as the activities required, both proactive and reactive, to minimise the danger and impact of acute public health events that endanger people’s health across geographical regions and international boundaries.
The tourism sector is particularly relevant in this regard as CARPHA’s Director of Surveillance, Disease Prevention and Control, Dr. Lisa Indar, reported a 72% decline in tourism globally in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic She indicated that as a tourism-dependent region, it is critical that specific proactive health measures are followed for a safe return to tourism. Dr. Indar pointed out that CARPHA’s Tourism and Health Program (THP), with its real time warning systems - the Tourism and Health Information System (THiS) and the Caribbean Vessel Surveillance System (CVSS), can be useful tools for Member States. She also spoke of CARPHA’s Travelers’ Health Assurance Stamp and App, which is awarded to facilities that implemented the necessary guidelines and systems for a healthier, safer regional tourism product. The mobile application was developed to increase the reach of the service, provide relevant travel updates to the public and allow them to identify the preferred Healthier Safer Tourism (HST) facilities.
CARPHA’s Head of Health Information, Communicable Disease and Emergency Response, Ms. Angela Hinds, presented recommendations for maintaining the surveillance systems in the Region. She underscored the Region’s need for enhancing surveillance (both passive and active), sustained building of capacity in the field and routine monitoring and evaluation moving forward. Ms. Hinds appealed to the CMOs to continue to collect and provide the relevant data from surveillance systems in their countries to CARPHA. This would increase the Region’s capacity for data analysis and allow for improved vigilance and timely responses to emerging health threats. CARPHA reiterated its commitment to supporting the Member States in improving their capability to collect and supply the relevant data.
Ms. Hinds also provided an overview of CARPHA’s Health Information tools which included a new initiative called the Digital Response Connecting Citizens (DIRECCT) which aims to improve digital integrated public health surveillance in the Caribbean. It will facilitate the integration of various data sets from laboratory results, hospital patient information, epidemiological data and contact tracing through CARPHA’s Laboratory Information System (LIMS). This initiative is being funded by the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States, the European Union, the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) Group and the Enabel Belgian Development Agency.
Dr. Tanesha Hickman, Epidemiologist, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, emphasized the importance of the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) given that we live in a “tightly connected world” where diseases can be transported from a rural village to a major city in as little as 36 hours. She stated that GHSA is the roadmap to International Health Regulations (IHR), making the world a safer place from global health threats posed by infectious diseases. In this regard, Dr. Hickman encouraged Member States to continue to work together to support regional security efforts so that the Region is prepared to face future threats. Dr. Hickman commended CARPHA as the newest member of the global health security network, testimony of the Agency’s commitment to its Member States.