Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. 30 November 2023. The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and the Agence Française de Développement (the French Development Agency or AFD) today announced the completion of its first collaborative project to strengthen regional health security, prevent and control non-communicable diseases, and partnership for public health in the Caribbean.
In February 2019, CARPHA and the AFD embarked on a project centred on a shared commitment to addressing the public health priorities of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), targeting CARPHA’s 26 Member States and the French Caribbean Overseas Regions. The project, titled "Strengthening Strategic Intelligence and Partnership Approaches to Prevent and Control Non- Communicable Diseases (NCDs) and Strengthen Regional Health Security in the Caribbean,” was valued at €1.5 million (Euros).
Dr. Joy St. John, Executive Director of CARPHA, stated: “CARPHA and its Member States are grateful for the trust and partnership of the AFD as we work to strengthen public health systems and capacities in the Caribbean. The goal is for a more resilient region. AFD’s investment in previously underfunded regional priority areas, including NCDs, and Partnerships, will certainly see returns in the coming years. The project’s support for regional health security was an unforeseen lifeline, following the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020. As we recognise the closure of this first project, CARPHA looks forward to continued collaboration with the AFD to support regional public health.”
Mr Marc Dubernet, AFD Regional Director for the Atlantic Ocean, said: “We are very honoured to have had this collaboration with CARPHA during the last four years. It is essential for France to pursue the cooperation between CARPHA’s Member States with the French neighbouring regions present in the Caribbean. AFD wishes to work on a long-term strategy to build a resilient framework for future projects, solutions, and ideas, that can accelerate and improve the well-being and health of the Caribbean region.”
Under the theme of regional health security, the project enabled CARPHA to strengthen the capacity of the Regional Coordinating Mechanism for Health Security (RCM-HS), to ensure it is an effective forum to address transboundary health and build relationships among key stakeholders. The Mechanism played a critical role both during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as post-pandemic, to share and review regional health security priorities, epidemiological information and surveillance, measures, successes, challenges and recommendations among regional and international partners.
The project also facilitated capacity-building at CARPHA and in its Member States to prevent, detect, report and respond to public health events. Support was provided to increase regional COVID-19 testing capacity at CARPHA’s Medical Microbiology Laboratory, equip CARPHA’s Rapid Response
Teams for readiness to respond to public health threats, and improve CARPHA’s electronic repository of regional public health surveillance datasets of communicable, vector-borne and non- communicable disease morbidity and mortality. Public health officials from CMS benefitted from training through CARPHA’s Caribbean Region - Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Programme (CR-FELTP), and the Caribbean Vector Borne Disease Network (CariVecNet).
The project supported CARPHA’s first virtual and bilingual (English and French) edition of the Annual Health Research Conference in 2021, where papers were presented under the theme “Pandemic, NCDs and Climate Change: The Caribbean’s Triple Threat”.
Under the project component on NCDs, CARPHA worked with regional and international partners to develop a regional surveillance framework for NCDs and related risk factors to enable CMS to measure and track regional trends. This strategic information will be critical for regional policymakers to develop and monitor results of interventions to prevent and manage NCDs in the Caribbean. Furthermore, CARPHA developed and disseminated knowledge and decision-making tools for the prevention and control of Diabetes in the region, including a boxset of the five guideline modules, a summary pocket guide, posters on screening and treatment guidelines, and a nutrition toolkit. The regional guidelines for the management and control of hypertension were also updated. Public health officials from CMS benefitted from sensitisation and training efforts through a series of webinars and a train-the-trainer program on the Diabetes Guidelines, and a distance training program on Guideline Development.
The Partnership component of the project served as the mechanism for engagement between CARPHA and the French Caribbean Overseas Regions to address common health-related challenges and threats, given their proximity to CMS and CARPHA’s sphere of action. The project afforded several opportunities for engagement and technical exchanges on issues of public health significance to both parties. Throughout the project, CARPHA developed partner relationships with the French Public Health Agency (Santé Publique France - Antilles), Regional Health Agencies of Martinique and Guadeloupe (Agences Régionales de Santé), and the University Hospitals of Martinique and Guadeloupe (Centres Hospitaliers Universitaires).
A significant milestone in the strengthening of technical cooperation occurred with the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement between CARPHA and the University Hospital of Martinique’s Cancer Surveillance Registry on December 13, 2022. The Agreement places emphasis on joint research activities, regional capacity development and technical support in cancer registration and research to strengthen the evidence-base that underpins cancer prevention and control. The project also supported training of CARPHA and CMS officials in developing effective partnering skills, partnering policy and instruments, to support cooperation efforts for public health.
AFD continues to support CARPHA through the Digital Response Connecting Citizens (DIRECCT) programme, funded by the European Union in consultation with the Organisation of African, Pacific and Caribbean States. This project Improving Digital Integrated Public Health Surveillance in the Caribbean focuses on integrating real-time digital surveillance systems to enhance risk assessment, monitoring, prevention and control of infectious diseases and new and emerging public health threats by CARPHA and CARPHA Member States.
More information on the recently-concluded Project can be found at: https://www.carpha.org/Projects/Ongoing-Projects/Strengthening-Strategic-Intelligence-and- Partnership-Approaches-To-Prevent-and-Control-NCDs-and-Strengthen-Regional-Health-Security- In-The-Caribbean