Annual health research conference presents updated information, highlights public health problems

GINA, Guyana, Friday, April 28, 2017

The 62nd Annual Health Research Conference being hosted in Guyana provides an avenue to address the impacts of climate change and the environment on human health.  Several research papers will be presented to update health workers on some of the more contemporary discoveries.

It will as well, offer discussion and networking opportunities for environmental health professionals, health researchers, policy makers and students.

The conference is as a result of the Government of Guyana’s commitment and health vision 2020 to have all persons in this country among the healthiest in the Caribbean by 2020. The conference will conclude on April 29, 2017 and is being held at the Marriott hotel, Georgetown under the theme ‘Climate Change, the Environment and Human Health’.

Outcomes of this conference are usually related to provision of strategic direction in analysing, defining and responding to public health priorities of the Caribbean. Additionally, there are strategies aimed at preventing diseases, promoting health and responding to public health threats and emergencies.

Executive Director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency, Dr. James Hospedales

Executive Director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency CARPHA, Dr. James Hospedales noted that the conference will develop policies and strategies based on research papers which highlight evidence of public health problems throughout the Caribbean.

“The conference slated this week will be a whole feast of papers to help improve health policy making, to educate and update the doctors and nurses and some of the more current discoveries and there will be news there for people, as well, for people who have certain health conditions, what to do,” Hospedales explained.

The CARPHA Director added that through this conference, research papers presented have shown that the Caribbean has no legislation governing human subject research. This, he said hampers the development of healthcare programmes and policies putting persons at a disadvantage in accessing quality healthcare. However, he added that CARPHA is working towards ensuring that research papers and other information presented at the conference have a positive impact on the public health sector.

Dr. Hospedales said, “Under our watch (CARPHA), we are working so that the conference could have more impact, it’s part of the agency’s role in both supporting and conducting research, so we do training and capacity building, and the annual conference is here as a knowledge sharing forum.”

Meanwhile, it was reiterated that even though the information presented at the conference is of substance, there still is more that needs to be done. Research in a continually developing Caribbean region is expected to be constant so as to remain relevant in bringing solutions to public health problems, threats and emergencies.

The primary purpose of the conference is to disseminate research findings which will facilitate the development of evidence-based policies, programmes, and practices that will enhance the delivery of superior health care. It had been noted that the annual research conference is the longest running health conference in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Climate change

Minister within the Ministry of Public Health, Dr. Karen Cummings stressed the responsibility of Caribbean public health officials to put their best efforts forward in alleviating the effects of climate change.

The Minister said, “Our world is beset by challenging global issues, foremost among which are the very ones that are highlighted in the theme of this conference – Climate Change, the Environment and Human Health at every level, be it national, regional or global. Governments have expressed deep concern about the impact of climate change on the environment and our human resource assets. Both of them are vulnerable and susceptible to the spread of infectious diseases that are predicted to occur as a result of climate change. As a consequence, scientists have been vigorously pursuing avenues to advance responses that would mitigate the effects of climate change and protect the environment and our people.”

Minister within the Ministry of Public Health, Dr. Karen Cummings delivering remarks at the Annual Health Research Conference opening

The Minister emphasised the theme’s relevance to the country’s development, noting that there is a need for a collective and multi-sectoral approach as a response to climate change.

“The scientific findings that will be shared at this forum must filter down to the people at the grassroot level, where the challenge is often greatest. We have to educate our people about climate change in concrete terms. We must inform them about the ways in which they can protect and preserve the environment so that they have a greater appreciation of its importance,” Minister Cummings remarked.

The Minister added that the Ministry of Public Health will be looking forward to the data that will emanate from the professionals as gaps are identified through research and a road-map will be delivered which will chart and coordinate effective public health interventions to climate change.

Public health priorities that are to be discussed at the conference include family and community health, environmental health, communicable and non-communicable diseases, nutrition, obesity, violence and mental health.

Climate change and environmental health will also take centre stage as Caribbean doctors and researchers seek to chart a way forward in addressing public health problems.

The conference will feature a number of experts in various capacities from across the Caribbean.

By: Delicia Haynes