One of the region’s leading health advocates is disappointed that the private sector has not contributed more significantly to the fight against non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
President of the Healthy Caribbean Coalition Sir Trevor Hassell stressed that the private sector’s contribution to the region reducing deaths associated with diseases such as cancer, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases, strokes and heart attack was “lacking”.
“Despite the highly commendable and widely recognised and acclaimed NCD political leadership in the Caribbean, the current projections are that for the most part, Caribbean countries will not meet our NCD sustainable goal target or 3.4 by the year 2030. This is my concern,” he said.
“It is my personal view that whatever the main reason for this projected failure is, the Caribbean private sector, the third leg in the whole-of-society response to NCDs, has not as yet contributed nationally or regionally in a significantly positive and constructive way to the NCD effort as the sector as in fact done in many areas of development throughout the Caribbean.”
Sir Trevor said he was satisfied that since 2008, regional civil society organisations have been more vocal, there has been enhanced governance and management of those organisations, their roles have been expanded to make them more fit for purpose and they have been able to influence several health-related policies. However, he said, there was also still a lot more to be done by civil society organisations.
He was addressing the opening of the HCC’s Mobilising for 2025 – A Caribbean Civil Society NCD Forum at the Courtyard by Marriott Bridgetown on Thursday.
The seminar brings together several local and regional civil society health organisations and other HCC stakeholders to discuss issues relating to NCDs, mental health and neurological and substance abuse disorders.
They will seek to identify progress, successes and challenges, and come up with considerations for the way forward for the Caribbean to help countries meet the UN Sustainable Development Goal 3.4, which calls for a one-third reduction in premature mortality by NCD by 2030.
Sir Trevor said the lack of systemic positive national and regional response by the private sector to the NCD fight was “negatively impacting many public health NCD policies and impeding the realisation of [public health] policies”.
“There is a need then for constructive engagement with the private sector, with robust management of conflict of interest, with a view to attain effective NCD public policies,” he recommended, adding that coming out of the two-day seminar, a clear path should be identified to place the region “back on track” to meeting the United Nations SDG to reduce deaths from NCDs.
He explained that in addition to advocacy and coalition building, public education and media campaigns and strengthening of relevant organisations, this week’s meeting will help to chart a strategic plan on NCD and mental health for the period 2023 to 2030.
Dr Gloria Giraldo, Advisor on NCD and Mental Health at the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO), also called for the private sector to play a greater role in the fight against NCDs.
“The chronic nature of NCDs have led to recurring medical interventions, loss of productivity, elevated healthcare expenditures and hampered economic development,” she said, though noting that “there is still a disconnect where investing in health is not seen as an investment in economic development”.