Boosting the Caribbean’s Health Security in the Face Of Climate Change

Enhancing Health Security in the Caribbean Amid Climate Challenges The Caribbean faces exacerbated challenges in the public sector due to the destructive impacts of climate change, with Dominica among the affected nations.

Enhancing Health Security in the Caribbean Amid Climate Challenges

The Caribbean faces exacerbated challenges in the public sector due to the destructive impacts of climate change, with Dominica among the affected nations.

The disastrous effects of Climate Change have undoubtedly exacerbated issues faced by the public sector in the region, and countries like Dominica are no exception. Despite the potential for various environmental disasters, including flooding, drought, sea level rise, increased waterborne diseases, coastal erosion, and the heightened spread of vector-borne diseases due to global warming and climate change, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) is actively strengthening health security in the Caribbean Region. Director of Surveillance, Disease Prevention, and Control at CARPHA, Dr. Lisa Indar, lists some of the major ways that climate change affects regional health security. She says, “As temperature changes and as rainfall patterns change, we will have an increase in disease spread.”


Enhancing Health Security in the Caribbean Amid Climate Challenges

The Caribbean faces exacerbated challenges in the public sector due to the destructive impacts of climate change, with Dominica among the affected nations.

Dr. Indar says that while there is no survey to gauge the level of awareness of the Caribbean citizenry regarding the impact that Climate Change is having on the health services sector, she believes that enough work is currently being done by CARPHA and PAHO to develop early warning health systems to continue to increase the awareness of the Caribbean population. Regarding the gravity and apprehension conveyed by the Caribbean population, Dr. Indar emphasises, “Climate change and its consequences have been ongoing for quite some time. However, it seems we often only take action when we directly experience its impact, and I believe we are at that juncture now.” Can the region develop a regional health security framework that will provide a faster response to health emergencies? Will it be strong enough to withstand the increased climatic disasters brought about by the Climate Change phenomenon? CARPHA is leading the way in this crucial response to these growing climate-based regional health threats.

In early August, CARPHA successfully held a regional health security planning meeting in Trinidad and Tobago. The meeting was attended by chief medical officers, a permanent secretary, and other health representatives from twenty-one CARPHA member states, eleven regional and international agencies, and three international developmental partners (IDPs). According to CARPHA, this initiative is in response to the devastating global impact of COVID-19 and other public health concerns like monkeypox, norovirus, and zika.


Enhancing Health Security in the Caribbean Amid Climate Challenges

The Caribbean faces exacerbated challenges in the public sector due to the destructive impacts of climate change, with Dominica among the affected nations.

The Executive Director of CARPHA, Dr. Joy St. John, explained that stakeholders must be prepared to respond to public health threats to prevent them from becoming emergencies. In this new era of increasing health threats, one of the main objectives of CARPHA is to ensure that member states become sufficiently able to respond to these threats before they become emergencies. Dr. Indar says that CARPHA’s new approach to achieving many of its objectives will be through inclusion and a collaborative approach.  “Everything we’ve been doing in the last four years has been towards a regional health approach”, she said.

The Regional Health Security (RHS) provides a tailored and coordinated approach for the Caribbean Region. This improved health approach will strengthen health systems in small island developing states (SIDS). These states are identified by several characteristics, including surveillance, laboratories, human resource capacities, small, under-resourced populations, being interconnected with porous borders, being prone to climate change and disasters, and being mainly reliant on tourism for economic growth. Dr. Indar revealed some major takeaways from this high-level meeting and the new approach to developing health security. She explained that there is a need for a partnership approach; there must be consensus in the establishment of modernised early warning health systems, laboratory strengthening, and workforce development. She continued, “They all said that digital modernization was important, they all said they need capacity, they needed regional coordination, so those were some key things.”

Currently, there is a positive outlook for the Caribbean region in terms of enhancing its regional health security. The Caribbean Public Health Agency is set to lead three primary objectives that will revolutionize healthcare in the archipelago. Although this undertaking is not an easy one, thanks to CARPHA’s RHS meeting, we now know that effective improvement in our Regional Health Security is possible. Climatic challenges like drought, sea level rise, increased waterborne diseases, and the increased spreading of vector-borne diseases can be largely addressed and will benefit the citizenry of the region when CARPHA’s new approach to health care advancement takes root.


This story was published by News 5 Belize with the support of the Caribbean Climate Justice Journalism Fellowship, which is a joint venture between Climate Tracker and Open Society Foundations.

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Richie Ferrol

Richie Ferrol

Richie is a well-respected professional in the Commonwealth of Dominica. He serves as a multimedia journalist, formerly with the WICE QFM radio station. He now works as a freelance journalist with a strong interest in stories which focus on climate justice, the environment and its preservation, human interest stories, eco-friendly community-based programs, and environmental advocation. Richie has more than eight years of experience in the media industry, with certification from the Media Institute of the Caribbean and the International Center for Journalists. Richie is also a professional Drummer and Artist.

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