Action is required to shift the focus of health care services from being reactionary and primarily concerned with treating disease, to a national health service which is directed at preventing ill-health and providing the best quality care for those who require it, in the most appropriate setting.
Minister of Health Donville Inniss made this assertion last night while delivering the feature address at the Pan-American Health Organisation’s annual staff awards ceremony at Hilton Barbados.
He noted that health care systems around the world were going through a process of reform and although situations differed greatly, the costs of the system, how it was financed and the motivation for health reform were all the same – to improve effectiveness, efficiency, and equity.
“We need to achieve this reform in an environment where we are challenged to maximise resources at a time when national budgets are low. We are also challenged to meet the demands of the high cost of health care and be creative in reducing the current disease burdens.
“The decision to implement reform of some scale implies that an assessment of the existing system has indicated that present health status is unacceptable, that the costs of health care are unsustainable, or that certain groups do not have sufficient access to care. In developing countries, although resource constraints for health care may be severe, a commitment to improving the system can have a significant impact on the health of the population.
Therefore, while we are faced with a completely different set of health challenges, we can be assured, however, that the responsibility to protect and promote the health of our people has not changed,” Inniss emphasised.
PAHO was credited with helping member countries to mitigate the impact of the economic crisis on health budgets, through efforts to identify sustainable financial solutions, more equitable distribution of limited resources and the reorganisation of health systems, based on the primary health care approach.
With the organisation’s help, the minister declared that the region of the Americas should be proud of its advances, particularly in the field of immunisation.
“This region was the first to eliminate both smallpox and poliomyelitis. A great part of the success was due to the commitment of the countries through its support of the PAHO Revolving Fund for Vaccines. We have seen advances in environmental health programmes, community management of non-communicable diseases, adolescent health, efforts to reduce maternal mortality, an approach to mental health that stresses non-institutional care, the provision of essential drugs, and promotion of nutrition and physical activity to halt the silent epidemic of obesity,” he said.
Dubbing PAHO as undoubtedly “a loyal, long-standing partner of governments in the region” he lauded the international public health organisation for its continued support during “changing political times and different health challenges”, helping member countries to “mitigate the impact of the economic crisis on health budgets through efforts to identify sustainable financial solutions, more equitable distribution of limited resources and the reorganisation of health systems based on the primary health care approach”.
Seventeen staff members were awarded at the ceremony, including those who were with the organisation for extended periods of time. The lone long service award for 30 years, went to Kim Foster-Duke. Persons were also recognised for academic and learning achievements and special awards were given to Ministry of Health Relief Night Watchmen, James Griffith and Trevor Maughn.