PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — The collaboration between the University of St. Martin (USM) and several stakeholders on both sides of the island could not have come at a better time.
As has been reported, the results of a health survey conducted as part of this collaboration will become available later this month. On a side note, I wish to encourage persons who are contacted for these legitimate surveys to cooperate with such, as approximately 20% as nonresponsive on the Dutch side is relatively high.
Up to date information on the health of our nation is sorely lacking and indeed to use the words of Dr. Francio Guadeloupe, the care of our nation must “…be based more so on the facts rather than conjecture and informed guesses.”
The health of any individual is a very emotional subject. The government spends a lot of money on the health of our people, yet at the same time must be cost-conscious. We must be able to effectively and efficiently offer our population the health care they need and deserve.
I am quite aware of the efforts of our Health Ministry to introduce a Health Information System (HIS), as during my tenure as regional authorizing officer for HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean, the introduction of these systems in the different countries was a hotly debated topic.
We are not there yet and even if we were, it would take some time to extract information that could serve as a basis for policies in the area of health.
Just recently, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), sounded the alarm bell with respect to the growing number of cancer cases in the Caribbean, especially amongst younger persons. This is also the feeling of many persons on St. Maarten, myself included.
If we are wrong and St. Maarten’s health profile differs considerably from that of the region, we need to know how and why. Only factual data can help us determine such. The Caribbean region is said to have the highest burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the Americas.
How have we fared health-wise since the last “How healthy is St. Maarten” survey several years ago? Again, there are many guesses out there, but no up to date facts, as far as I know.
Prevention and education should in any case be an important part of our health focus.
I keenly await the outcome of the health survey and I commend USM, the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labor (VSA) and their counterparts of French St. Martin.