Caribbean nations’ health professionals recently gathered at St. George’s University to discuss violence and injuries prevention as an urgent public health and development issue at the 60th Annual Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) Conference.
St. George’s University (SGU) in partnership with the Ministry of Health, Grenada and the Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF) partnered together to host the conference and 14 satellite conferences at its True Blue Campus in June. The region’s leading authorities in health research, and the Deans and Directors of most of the regions leading academic and research institutions were in attendance.
Addressing 200 delegates at the opening ceremony, the Minister of Health, the Honorable Nicholas Steele, welcomed the largest group of CARPHA delegates to Grenada and stated that their deliberations and outcomes had important economic implications for the region. “Spending $100.00 on prevention today is repaid many times over in the prevention of disease at a later time” said the Honorable Minister Steele.
Dr. James Hospedales, the Executive Director of CARPHA stated that the conference was now the longest running health research conference in the entire region, and Dr. Donald Simeon, Deputy Executive Director and Director of Research of CARPHA, reported that a special edition of the West Indian Medical Journal would be produced highlighting how the research presented at the conference had been translated into policy.
Dr. Calum Macpherson, Vice Provost of SGU and Director of WINDREF, highlighted the evolution of the University since the last time the CARPHA Conference was held in Grenada in 2004.
“The University has grown enormously since the last time we hosted the conference with our accreditation by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) for our DVM program and accreditation of our MPH program from the Council on Education for Public Health accreditation,” Dr. Macperhson said.
He also highlighted that the largest number of students in conference history had attended, taking advantage of the opportunity to meet many of the leading authorities in health research from the region and internationally.
The Master of Ceremonies, Dr. George Mitchell, Grenada’s Chief Medical Officer, shared his enthusiasm for co-hosting the Conference. “The CARPHA Conference is a partnership which holds great promise for translating research into policy for the benefit of the peoples of the region,” he said
A record number of over 178 oral and poster presentations were made during the conference covering the theme of “Violence and Injuries Prevention: an Urgent Public Health and Development Issue’” as well as other research topics relevant to the Caribbean region such as communicable diseases like Chikungunya. SGU’s faculty, students and collaborators contributed 28 oral and poster presentations to the meeting.
Dr. Donald T. Simeon, Deputy Executive Director and Director of Research, Training and Policy Development, CARPHA shared his thoughts on the importance of the conference as, “a treasured standard-bearer for the protection of the health of the Caribbean peoples that has stood the test of time. I am privileged to have been associated with the Conference first as a researcher, then as Scientific Secretary and now as Director of Research. We are well poised for 60 more years of service; facilitating the generation and uptake of the research evidence required for improved health and wellness.”
The conference was preceded by 14 satellite meetings and these together with the health research conference brought more than 250 delegates from all the CARICOM countries, the US, the UK and Canada. The satellite meetings comprised The Chief Medical Officer’s Annual Meeting which was chaired by Dr. Rudolph Cummings, MD, MPH, to which 16 CARICOM CMO’s attended. The Technical Advisory Committee Meeting, Data Analysis Workshop, Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR), Built Environment, Evidence Informed Policy Workshop, Policy Dialogue/Research to Policy, Launch of Evidence, School Debate, Research Advisory Committee Meeting, Regional Communications Meeting, and a Town Hall Meeting, which was held in Gouyave. During the banquet at the end of the Conference Professors Fletcher (Dean of Medicine, UWI Mona), Susan Walker (Director, Tropical Medicine Research Institute, Jamaica), and David Chadee, UWI St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago, were honoured for their outstanding contributions to health research in the region.
“The hosting of all the satellite meetings and the conference afforded many opportunities for informal discussions on forging future research partnerships and collaborations” said Dr. Cal Macpherson, Director of Research for SGU. “We welcome the development of partnerships within the region” said Dr. Pensick, Provost of SGU, and it was a pleasure to have so many regional health care professionals visit our campus.
The CARPHA Conference is the largest health research conference in the English speaking Caribbean with participants comprised of researchers, policy makers and health care providers. The Caribbean Public Health Agency is a merger of five previous regional health institutions (RHIs) namely the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre (CAREC), Caribbean Health Research Council (CHRC), Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute (CFNI), Caribbean Environmental Health Institute (CEHI) and the Caribbean Research Drug Testing Laboratory (CRDTL).
Next year’s CARPHA Conference will be held in the Turks and Caicos.
By Ray-Donna Peters