Improved access to good healthcare
Guyana Chronicle
April 8, 2003

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‘The fight is, of course, to ensure that all our citizens have access to those sanitary and social measures that are necessary for them to enjoy health - in the pristine sense of the word - health meaning to be hale, to be hearty, and to be whole. The struggle is to continue to give body and strength to the CCH. But I fear that there are aspects of cooperation that are not being used to the fullest. There are still too many good practices that are being developed in one place but not being disseminated widely. I confess to being disappointed that here it was not possible to achieve a Caribbean-wide negotiation for the prices of anti-retroviral drugs, for example, at least not yet. I confess to being disappointed that lessons of management of services and reform of services are not being disseminated. But on the other hand, I take pride in many of the significant achievements you have made over the years. For example, this was the first part of the Americas to eliminate measles and to be well on the way to eliminating rubella.’

-Sir George Alleyne, former Director of PAHO
IT WAS perhaps a pleasing coincidence that the third issue of The Integrationist produced by the UWI-CARICOM Project is being circulated about the same time that nations are observing World Health Day. The magazine devotes an entire section to Barbados-born Sir George Alleyne, who a year ago retired as Director of PAHO (Pan-American Health Organisation). The Integrationist documents many of the excellent tributes paid to Sir George at the special meeting of COHSOD (Council for Human and Social Development) held in Georgetown in April 2002 to honour his professional achievements. Sir George’s speech in response to the tributes paid him is also published in the document. His was a moving presentation, which not only highlighted the progress of health care delivery to the peoples of the Caribbean Community, but it also drew for listeners a portrait of the socioeconomic ferment that gave birth to nationalist politics in these territories in the first half of the 20th century. This social ferment and his parents’ faith and values helped shaped the thinking and the ideals of the young George Alleyne. We have already commented on this aspect of Sir George’s presentation.

Today we wish to reflect on Sir George’s stated health care objective for the region. That is, he said, to ensure that Caribbean citizens have access to those sanitary and social measures that are necessary for them to enjoy health. Guyana, along with countries of the hemisphere, has seen tremendous progress in health care delivery over the last 50 years. Children no longer die of whooping cough, or are they crippled for life by poliomyelitis, which swept through the Caribbean in the 1960s. It is no longer a rite of passage that young children should experience mumps, typhoid fever, eczema, measles and other infectious diseases. Every infant is placed on an inoculation programme that begins within days of birth and concludes by the time the child is ready to enrol in primary school. Increased awareness about the link between unsanitary conditions and the spread of infectious diseases; improved nutritional status for children and lactating mothers; and better maternal and child health care have contributed significantly in promoting the health and well being of the nation.

While there is much more to be done in lifting standards and making some depressed communities more health conscious, we feel our nation is well on the path to achieving Sir George Alleyne’s objective.

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