Caribbean advances in Global Strategy for health of women, children and adolescents



BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – Suicide, violence, non-communicable diseases, adolescent pregnancy, and cervical cancer are among the challenges in adolescent health that the Global Strategy adapted to the Caribbean will seek to address.

Representatives of public health systems, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and civil society from 18 Caribbean countries and territories met together last week with the international agencies that integrate the Regional Coordination Mechanism for the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescent’s Health, in order to adapt the Strategy to the context of the Caribbean.

“We need to identify interventions that are practical, affordable and impactful, while ensuring that we bear in mind the cultural, ethnic and economic diversities that make the Caribbean such a colorful, varied and interesting region of this world,” said Dr. Godfrey Xuereb, the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) representative for Barbados and Eastern Caribbean.

Spouse of the Prime Minister and Special Envoy for Women and Children of Belize, Kim Simplis Barrow, and First Lady of Trinidad and Tobago Reema Carmona, attended the meeting. Both have been part of the sub-regional adaptation of The Global Strategy, called All Caribbean Women, All Caribbean Children.

Carmona highlighted that “this strategy is an imperative if we want to leave no one behind,” and asked to consider the impact that climate change and environmental degradation have on the factors that determine health. Simplis Barrow added that in order to be successful at implementing the Strategy: “We must ensure that we pursue a coordinated, solidarity-based, financially sustainable and partnership approach.”

During the meeting, experts and officials discussed the nine areas of action of the Global Strategy and the particular conditions of the Caribbean that may be challenges and opportunities towards the implementation of actions for the health of women, children and adolescents. PAHO’s Director of the Family, Gender and Life Course Department Andrés de Francisco, considered the Global Strategy as an opportunity and pointed out that bringing together key players in the Caribbean to adapt the strategy to the regional context is fundamental to building synergies and mobilize and coordinate actions.

The new strategy, based on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), seeks to end the preventable mortality of women, children and adolescents, to achieve their health and well-being, and to expand the enabling environments for this population to thrive.

Putting adolescents at the center of health

Dr. Xuereb highlighted the inclusion of adolescents in the new strategy, which he considered central in the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: “If we have unhealthy adolescents we risk reversing the development we have achieved and we risk economic and social collapse.” In the Caribbean, adolescents make up 26% of the population.

Dr. Karen Broome, Senior Medical Officer in the Barbados Ministry of Health, highlighted the health challenges of adolescents – such as HIV risk, adolescent pregnancy and unsafe abortion – who on that island represent 13% of the population.

Luisa Brumana, Regional Health Adviser for UNICEF Latin America and the Caribbean, added that one of the challenges for public health systems is to develop programs to address violence against children and adolescents that have clear rules and procedures that allow health workers attend and appropriately refer victims of violence. Brumana remarked, “The adaptation of the Global Strategy to the realities of Latin America and the Caribbean requires a systems approach, with an emphasis on equity and multi-sectoral actions.”

“There is a missing generation out there. Find them and help them become a more prosper and healthier population,” said Beverly Reynolds, Coordinator of the Health and Human Development department at the CARICOM Secretariat.

This consultation is part of a series of meetings to solicit the views of the sub-regions of Latin America and the Caribbean on the adaptation of the Global Strategy for Women, Children and Adolescents to the regional context. The first two meetings were in Central America (Panama) and South America (Peru).