On Wednesday 2nd August 2023, an engagement meeting between the Caribbean regional agency for public health, CARPHA, and various public health institutions of the French Caribbean Overseas Regions took place in Trinidad and Tobago.
The hybrid meeting was the culmination of 5 years of cooperation efforts, supported through funding of the Agence Française de Développement (AFD), and included representatives from the Santé Publique France – Antilles (the Caribbean office of the French Public Health Agency); Agences Régionales de Santé (ARS) in Martinique, Guadeloupe, and French Guiana (French governmental agencies responsible for healthcare organization, local health promotion and development, and public health security in their relevant territories); as well as the Centres Hospitaliers Universitaires (CHU or University Hospitals) of Martinique, and Guadeloupe.
Chair of the meeting, Dr. Lisa Indar, Director, Surveillance, Disease Prevention and Control Division, CARPHA welcomed delegates stating ”This meeting demonstrates the special relevance of public health cooperation in our small region, with geographic proximity of the French Outermost Regions to our CARPHA Member States, and with shared cultural and environmental risk factors and similar disease burdens that create opportunities for joint action.”
Mr. Jacques Rosine, Santé publique France agreed, saying “The countries of the Caribbean share a common history, a common geography, and also health risks that are, [in some cases], different from those that may affect other regions of the world and specifically Europe, including France. For us, the French territories, it’s essential to be able to work with [CARPHA and its Member States] and develop areas of cooperation in a number of fields.”
The meeting took stock of the numerous cooperation efforts and successes during the period 2019-2023 and identified priority areas for future collaboration and exchanges; including next steps for action.
In her opening remarks, CARPHA’s Executive Director Dr. Joy St. John said ”Our French colleagues have been sharing surveillance information, technical guidelines especially in quality Cancer Registration, presenting research at the CARPHA Conference, working with us as we explore challenges and lessons learned, among other actions. CARPHA was pleased to sign a Memorandum of Agreement last year to formalize a maturing relationship. As we meet today to advance these relationships, we look forward to understanding the priorities for collaboration and exchange.”
The meeting heard clear reiteration of commitment from CARPHA and the French Caribbean regional public health institutions towards advancing partnerships for regional public health, with all parties agreeing on the driving forces and needs for closer cooperation.
Ms. Anne Bruant-Bisson, Executive Director of the ARS Martinique stated: ”In the aftermath of the pandemic that affected healthcare organizations and all public policy actors, the road towards establishing a lasting institutional partnership in our daily practices still is a long way to go. However, the peer dialogue […] has emphasized the value of shared experiences … I do hope this dialogue will continue throughout the last semester of 2023 and beyond.” She noted key areas of exchange between CARPHA and the French Caribbean institutions, including but not limited to chronic diseases, epidemiological surveillance, and health security.
The meeting was funded by the AFD, through the AFD-CARPHA Project, Strengthening Strategic Intelligence and Partnership Approaches to Prevent and Control NCDs and Strengthen Regional Health Security in the Caribbean.