Kingstown, St. Vincent 19 February 2016 (PAHO/WHO) — Dr. Carissa Etienne, Director of the Pan American Health Organization and Regional Director of World Health Organization in the Americas, was in St. Vincent and the Grenadines this week for an official visit and to attend a meeting of PAHO representatives based in the Caribbean.
Etienne's visit included meetings with Governor General Frederick Ballantyne; Minister of Health, Wellness and the Environment Robert T.L.V. Browne; and Minister of Foreign Affairs Nathaniel Williams. In the meetings, Etienne emphasized the need to strengthen primary health care as a pillar of universal health and the importance of promoting multisectoral collaboration to fight noncommunicable diseases and to reduce breeding sites for the mosquitoes that carry viruses such as dengue, chikungunya and Zika.
Etienne also visited the Georgetown Health Centre and "Smart" healthcare facilities, where she was shown structural improvements undertaken with PAHO support that have made the facility more energy efficient, resistant to natural hazards and more comfortable for both workers and patients.
On Monday, Etienne visited a Carib community on the windward coast of St. Vincent, where she toured a local health centre that provides primary care to members of the community. Afterward, in meetings with community leaders and members, she stressed the importance of education as a key social determinant of health and encouraged young people to be physically active and adopt healthy lifestyles.
Etienne also participated in the annual meeting of PAHO representatives in the Caribbean. One of the meeting's highlights was a presentation by Minister of Health Robert Browne on modernization of the country's health sector, with emphasis on his government's commitment to the renewal of primary health care. Browne also described the implementation of PAHO's Smart Hospitals Initiative and health achievements including the elimination of the mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS and reductions in neonatal and infant mortality. He acknowledged pending challenges including the need to step up action to reduce noncommunicable diseases and to control the Aedes aegypti mosquito.