Regional health ministers join forces on climate change

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GENEVA, Switzerland (CMC) — Ministers of Health from across the region have pledged to work together to respond to climate change, extreme weather events and certain health challenges, among other things.

The Caribbean health ministers along with health officials from the Pacific, met here to discuss opportunities for cooperation and exchange regarding good practices in climate change and resilient health systems, regulatory frameworks, health security and non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

Small island states in the Caribbean and the Pacific face a number of common challenges.

“We do not need to reinvent the wheel. We can learn from each other and save resources and time,” said the Minister of Health of Trinidad and Tobago, Terrence Deyalsingh, who co-chaired the meeting organised by Cook Islands and the Caribbean Community (Caricom) and facilitated by Regional Office of the World Health Organization (WHO) for the Western Pacific and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

Nickolas Steele, the Minister of Health of Grenada, which hosted last year’s Third Global Conference on Health and Climate: Special Focus on Small Island Developing States, stated that addressing the issue of climate change and health together “is about our survival”. Steele also highlighted the need for more case studies and evidence on the effects of climate change on health.

The Minister of Health of Jamaica, Dr Christopher Tufton, presented the campaign ‘Caribbean Moves’, which encourages the population to get regular health checks, engage in physical activity and promotes a balanced diet.

 This initiative could be adapted and replicated in the Pacific.

The Minister of Health of the Cook Islands, and co-chair of the meeting, Vainetutai Rose Toki-Brown, also stressed the importance of continued collaboration and cooperation among island states.

“There is a season for everything under the sun and this is our season, an opportunity for the Pacific to work with the Caribbean, to join forces and work as a family, to support each other, blossom and grow. Let us all learn from each other and share best practices and resources”, said Toki-Brown.

Participating ministers and high-level health authorities from the Caribbean included The Bahamas, Grenada, Jamaica, Haiti, St Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago. From the Pacific, participating ministers and high-level health authorities included those from Fiji, Cook Islands, Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, French Polynesia, Samoa, Tonga, and Tuvalu.

Representatives from the Caricom Secretariat, the Secretariat of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, the Commonwealth Secretariat and PAHO also took part in the meeting.

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