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Dec 12, 2007

PAHO presents results of annual checkup

Story PictureThere is no shortage of challenges when it comes to the issue of health…in Belize or anywhere else in the world. This morning in Belize City the body that oversees the region’s health initiatives tried to put the local and international situation in perspective. News Five’s Janelle Chanona reports.

Janelle Chanona, Reporting
Today the Pan American Health Organization country representative Dr. Beverley Barnett officially handed over their flagship publication “Health in the Americas 2007” to Minister of Health Jose Coye. Volume One is a regional perspective while Volume Two contains individual chapters on the forty-six countries of the Americas.

Dr. Beverley Barnett, Country Representative, PAHO/WHO
The good news is that the region has recorded improvements in health status overall but the bad news is that significant health inequities remain resulting in differences in health indicators between and within countries that are unjust, unfair and avoidable.”

According to PAHO, the idea is to collect relevant data to help governments make informed policy decisions.

Dr. Beverley Barnett
“There are many things that Belize has done that need further implementation, that need the information to see whether the right things are being done in the right way so that adjustments can be made. But I think what the report does is show the good things, the achievements, as well as some of the challenges that remain, which is basically the same for every country, not just Belize.”

But do Governments really pay attention to these reports?

Dr. Beverley Barnett
“There still remains a significant amount of collecting information for information sake. What I’m saying is, people collect data but as was referred to, they’re not sure why they’re collecting the data and how it’s going to be used and one of the things is that it’s very important to provide feedback to the people who collect the data and to enable them to use the data at the level it was collected cause that’s a motivator. So I think yes generally there is a positive response but more needs to be done from the action point of view.”

Jose Coye, Minister of Health
“If we are to judge where we are now, we must in fact judge it not by what we are in terms of height we have achieved but from where we came from.”

From this year’s report, Belize can boast an average health report card but the rankings are skewed by countries like the United States, Canada and Brazil.

Minister of Health Jose Coye agrees that significant strides have been made in Belize but admits the culture of prevention has yet to take root.

Jose Coye
“The work is on that desk now in those two books. It is there for us to use as the reference. We know where we want to go in our lives but some of us do not know how to get there. We need the map to get us where we want to go. Use the books for the reference. The information in there is valuable to the Americas to take us into the next hundred years and with the prevention, with the prevention culture, we will live the hundred years and fifty years that our creator designed us for.”

The leading causes of death in Belize are hypertension, diabetes, road traffic accidents, HIV and cancer. According to health officials, in 2006, as much as twenty-five percent of hospitalizations were due to cancer-related illnesses.

Sandra Jones, Technical Advisor, PAHO
“And the cancers that we’re seeing are preventable cancers, prostate cancer, breast cancer, when I say preventable, from the standpoint that if you access test earlier, a diagnosis, you can see and if it’s detected early, it can be treated.”

Up to date national statistics can be tough to come by. According to Technical Advisor Sandra Jones, two months ago, PAHO and the Belize Cancer Society launched a cancer registry in an effort to catalogue reported cases.

Sandra Jones
“We do need to know because we need to know where most of these cancers are showing up too because maybe it’s Orange Walk, we don’t know. We need to know the areas. The people who are affected, the affected age groups that are affected so that we can plan appropriate intervention.”

“We need to be more proactive, we need to give people more information and people at an early age so that they can know how they can look for these signs and get treatment very early.”

And while non-communicable diseases are impacting our population, vector borne diseases like dengue and malaria also remain a persistent problem. Experts contend that proper solid waste management is crucial to curbing such cases.

Jose Perez, Technical Advisor, PAHO
“You may notice that there are a number of open dump sites. We are working very closely with the Solid Waste Management Authority in identifying centralised, controlled, properly managed waste managements sites.”

“We have to be much more conscious that if we throw…if we just inadvertently dispose of our garbage without thinking that it has health hazards at the end of day it will not only affect you as an individual but it can lead to epidemics which would cause heavy burdens on the health sector.”

Dr. Paul Edwards, Epidemiologist
“Many times we are very “turfy”. This is my job and this is what I’m going to do and many times it’s overlapping so once we start breaking those barriers and the turfs that do exist then I think we should be able to sit at that table. We are intelligent enough to recognize that we have to work together.”

But today health experts also maintained that national policies will never be effective without teamwork.

Dr. Paul Edwards
“Some people might say we’ve heard that before. We may be saying it but we need that to be translated to action for us really to sit at the table and to take on what are our responsibilities to truly effect change.”

“The limited human resources, the limited financial resources…coming together will certainly do it but we really need to go beyond the talk, we really need to sit down at the table and get the work done.”

And to motivate decision makers into action, today PAHO reminded everyone that behind every statistic is the life of a girl, a boy, a woman or a man.

Reporting for News Five, I am Janelle Chanona.

For copies of the Health in the Americas 2007, please visit PAHO’s website at

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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