PAHO Hosts Regional Meeting in Belize
The Pan American Health Organization kicked off its country and sub-regional managers meeting in Belize City today. The meeting brings together health directors from Central America, Cuba, Mexico and the Dominican Republic to discuss the opportunities and challenges of getting support from multilateral agencies. Today, News Five stopped by the meeting to talk with Belize’s Deputy-Director of Health Services Doctor Francis Morey about Belize’s partnership with donor agencies in tackling diseases and health care challenges. Reporter Andrea Polanco tells us more.
Andrea Polanco, Reporting
In 1995, there were over ten thousand recorded cases of malaria. But by 2010, there were one hundred and fifty recorded cases of the disease in Belize. And by 2017, that number had decreased to only seven persons diagnosed with malaria. There were massive investments in early detection, treatment and preventative measures in the last decade. The aim is to eliminate malaria by 2020. The Pan American Health Organization reports that Belize is on track to eradicate this life-threatening disease that is transmitted by infected female anopheles mosquito. But this success is in large part owed to the partnerships with multi-lateral agencies that have provided funding, training, equipment and other resources to tackle these public health threats.
Dr. Francis Morey, Deputy-Director of Health Services
“The donor agencies usually come through the UN agencies and hence there are key strategies and strategic plan from the Ministry of Health is supported by these key agencies. So, achievements gained success stories from the Ministry have always been supported by these key agencies.”
And so today, PAHO hosted its country and sub-regional managers meeting for health directors from Central America, Cuba, Mexico and the Dominican Republic. The purpose is to discuss the opportunities and challenges of working with large donor agencies. Dr. Francis Morey of the Ministry of Health says that one of the key areas they continue tackle with international support is the Non-Communicable Diseases. Diabetes, Chronic Kidney Disease, Heart Disease and Cancer are just a few of the NCDs that are common in Belize. Morey says that more funding is needed to tackle issues like diabetes and high blood pressure – but individual responsibility can play a big part in curbing these conditions.
Dr. Francis Morey
“The control and prevention of Non-Communicable Diseases begins from the household; it begins from the level of the family. And hence, the increase in health promotion activities by the HECOPAB unit is something that will be essential within the next few years that need to be done. We need to increase the monies allocated for addressing diabetes and high blood pressure. But we must be able to, even in the event that the monies are not able to be identified, that the message going out there is that our population, the people affected by these diseases must be able to adapt, change their lifestyle and so that they can control their numbers.”
In recent years, the Ministry of Health with help from donor agencies, has implemented a number of other programs to reduce the number of new cases of HIV and to tackle TB; as well as to make primary healthcare more accessible, as well as other health services and awareness initiatives available at the community level. But working with these funders brings its own set of challenges. As Morey explains, to get support from these agencies, the Ministry and its partners must provide consistent reports. He says that those health surveys that you respond to play a big role in securing funds, and these also provide evidence for health officials to create policies for the country to address these common illnesses and health conditions.
Dr. Francis Morey
“If any monies are given to the country via grants or proposals, there has to be a lot of time allocated in development of key strategies and reporting these strategies. And hence also collecting the information designated for key indicators. Surveillance and monitoring of evaluation of the proposals are key in saying that you have had a successful strategy or that you also have evidence based medicine. So, all of these activities are creating evidence for us to be able to change policies. For example, the recent research that was done at the community level for risk factors for kidney disease. This essentially showed that we have high percentage of almost thirteen point nine percent of persons living in the northern part of Belize or in Belize are at risk of developing chronic kidney disease. Diabetes and high blood pressure the percentages are still high. Obesity can be a factor that is associated with the development of chronic kidney disease. So, these are essentially evidence based medicine that can help us as a Ministry to develop policies to see where we can advocate for people to decrease the intake of fatty food, exercise, and decrease salt intake. All these are key strategies that the Ministry has to address.”
Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.