CARICOM Secretary General Carla Barnett.
GEORGETOWN, Guyana--This year marks fourteen years since the Caribbean Community CARICOM has been observing Caribbean Wellness Day in keeping with the 2007 Port-of-Spain Declaration “Stop the Epidemic of Chronic Non-communicable Diseases” issued by the heads of government, following their summit on the issue.
In relation to the September 11 observance of Caribbean Wellness Day, CARICOM Secretary General (SG) Carla Barnett issued a statement via press release. In it, she says, “In 2020, it was decided that ‘Power Through Collective Action’ would be the overarching theme for Caribbean Wellness Day (CWD) for the next five years (2020-2024). The CARICOM Secretariat is pleased, in collaboration with [Caribbean Public Health Agency – Ed.] CARPHA and the Pan American Health Organisation, to celebrate this year with the sub theme: ‘In it together! Building Healthy Communities’.”
The release outlines the objectives for CWD 2021 as promoting equitable access to health; and working together (governments, communities, civil society) to empower and engage individuals and communities to promote health and well-being.
“Our region, for some time, has been experiencing an increase in mortality associated with non-communicable diseases (NCDs), mainly due to increased consumption of unhealthy diets, harmful use of alcohol, tobacco use and physical inactivity,” the statement continues.
It adds that the COVID-19 pandemic has “exacerbated the existing realities” with co-morbidities such as cancer, hypertension, cancer and diabetes – all NCDs that are prevalent in the Community – contributing significantly to the over 6,500 COVID-related deaths since March 2020. It laments that the loss of lives, livelihoods and the accompanying social and economic distress brought on by the pandemic have adversely affected CARICOM Member States.
“The weeks leading up to this year’s observance of Caribbean Wellness Day have been particularly disturbing as a surge of deaths and hospitalisations due to the virus is threatening to overwhelm our health sector and further disrupt the education system,” the SG adds, saying this demands that many more be vaccinated to protect individuals, families and countries.
“The need for resources to address this crisis as well as the rising cost of NCDs is a conversation that has been a priority for all of us at policy level, but we have to ensure that this conversation includes all key stakeholders. This year’s theme, therefore, is very timely and instructive, as it encourages us to work together collectively in addressing the health and wellness issues associated to unhealthy behaviours,” the SG states.
“Building healthy communities necessitates action at all levels. How do we communicate to the people in the street? How do we engage the youth? How do we communicate to those who have disabilities and often feel marginalised? Our citizens must be empowered to make informed decisions to improve their health status and, in so doing, the health of our communities.”
She goes on to say the most vulnerable populations with chronic health conditions, such as HIV, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and mental health disorders must be targeted, not forgetting migrants whose “health rights cannot be ignored. They too are vulnerable.”
The SG promises to continue working closely with key institutions, member states and health partners “to create the nexus that is needed between non-governmental organisations, civil society and communities to advance the efforts toward a healthier Community for all our citizens.”
“As we celebrate Caribbean Wellness Day 2021, let us commit to work together. We have experienced in this pandemic the importance of functional cooperation. We have witnessed the resilience of our communities through natural disasters. It is our collective action that has brought great results.
“I call on all our citizens to act together in the fight for healthy communities. Please vaccinate.
“Happy Caribbean Wellness Day to you all!” the release concludes.