Speaking at the Inaugural Meeting he told the gathering of health ministers, health practitioners and international development partners that CARICOM had exercised due diligence and concluded that CARPHA was the most expedient way to organize and service the Region’s public health agenda.
Prime Minister Douglas said “We therefore expect the Executive Board to be the vanguard in the accelerated approach for this Region’s public health agenda.”
He made the point that the agenda must focus on mitigating natural disasters, to which the region was prone, adding that “It must contribute to an environment in which our health conditions are conducive to enabling our tourism industry to attract patrons. It must foster institutional strengthening of our health delivery systems with greater emphasis on health promotion and disease prevention. It must increase awareness of the public about the effects of toxic wastes and pollutants on their health. It must place emphasis on assuring the safety of our communities as well as workers’ health.”
Guyana Minister of Health and Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Council of Human and Social Development (COHSOD) Dr. Leslie Ramsammy is the first chairman of the Executive Board of the new Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).
Dr. Ramsammy’s appointment is in accordance with Article 9 Section 3 of the Inter- Governmental Agreement which established CARPHA as a legal entity. The Article states that the Chair of COHSOD “shall be the Chair of the Executive Board of CARPHA.”
The new 14-member Board and its Chairman was installed at the Inaugural Meeting of CARPHA on Friday, 23rd September, at the PAHO Headquarters in Washington.
CARICOM Heads of Government approved the new public health agency in March 2010. CARPHA’s purpose is to integrate the functions of the five regional health institutions and build on public health knowledge and expertise across the Caribbean, preventing duplication of effort and resources. This will facilitate a co-ordinated approach to public health issues including managing the risk of disease outbreaks in the Region.
The CARPHA Board has responsibility for charting the directions of CARPHA by approving its strategic plan, appointments to staff positions and the technical advisory committees; by devising mechanisms for the prompt exchange of information among its members and between the Board and the various stakeholders; by promoting cooperation in education and public awareness; by supervising the mobilization and disbursement of resources and all other fiduciary matters related to accountability and good governance.
In this context, CARICOM Secretariat Deputy Secretary-General Ambassador Lolita Applewhaite acknowledged that the Board would have a challenging task because the agency was the first of its kind in the Region. However, she pointed to the fact that there was an articulated vision to guide them, and expressed confidence that the Board – under the leadership of the longest serving CARICOM Minister of Health – would respond to the challenges and “emerge with flying colours.”