By Halshane Burke
Director of the Pan American Health Organization Dr. Jarbas Barbosa has challenged small island developing states (SIDS) to ensure their political leaders are committed to tackling non-communicable diseases and mental health issues.
Addressing the opening of a ministerial conference on NCDs and mental health in Bridgetown, Barbados, Wednesday, he noted that the COVID-19 pandemic had placed the region under threat.
Dr. Barbosa said the ministerial conference is key to amplifying the voice and needs of SIDS, providing a unique opportunity to share learnings and chart a bold path forward.
He also used the opportunity to call for increased access to screening, diagnosis, and treatment for non-communicable diseases and mental health, saying services must be mainstreamed within the primary health care system.
In addition, Dr. Barbosa called for multisectoral collaboration including lawmakers, civil society, professional associations, and people with lived experiences, to develop policies that address the underlying socio-economic factors driving NCDs and mental health challenges.
He urged countries to build on the guidance provided in the Port of Spain Declaration and Samoa Pathway, to reinforce NCD risk factor policies, strengthen primary care services for NCDs and mental health, and improve surveillance.