According to the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO), “Public health refers to all organized measures (whether public or private) to prevent disease, promote health, and prolong life among the population as a whole. Its activities aim to provide conditions in which people can be healthy and focus on entire populations, not on individual patients or diseases. Thus, public health is concerned with the total system and not only the eradication of a particular disease.”
The Public Health Agency of Canada concurs. Their system of public health is responsible for helping to protect their citizens from injury and disease and helping them to stay healthy.
Public health is therefore not only concerned with ill health, it focuses on the quality of life through the promotion healthy behaviour and good health. As it implies, this requires a proactive approach to the surveillance of diseases, health promotion and disease prevention services, and the establishment of relevant policies to manage problems and promote wellness.
Public Health is achieved through a multidisciplinary approach that incorporates education, training, surveillance and research as well as supporting policies, laboratory services, strategic planning and resource mobilization.
CARPHA benefits from the economies of scale and is able to provide public health services and support that small territories would not have been able to offer on their own.
As a single agency representing the Caribbean, CARPHA has greater leverage in obtaining support from funding agencies, which prefer to work with larger entities rather than small fragile economies.
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), which is an international public health agency working to improve health and living standards in the Americas, supported two of the five institutions that were merged into CARPHA. They are CAREC and CFNI.
PAHO is committed to continuing its support and has signed an agreement with CARPHA to carry out joint cooperation activities and public health interventions in the Caribbean.
There is an epidemic of non-communicable diseases in the Caribbean, including childhood obesity. CARPHA is poised to address this in the Region.
Disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes and flooding need an emergency response, which takes time to build up. The CARPHA effort brings together five institutions as one strong force for public health through which we can address some of these issues.
The Agency provides surveillance of non-communicable diseases, as well as injuries and violence. It is also exploring preventative measures, since this has been a gap in provision of public health services in our region.
CARPHA is also monitoring diseases that are re-emerging, like tuberculosis in association with HIV/AIDS, and new communicable diseases that are now endemic in the region.
CARPHA’s core funding is derived from country quota contributions from Caribbean Community Member States. However, additional funding is obtained from partners supporting health and development work in the Caribbean. CARPHA has received support from the Public Health Agency of Canada, The National Social Marketing Centre, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, and the Pan-American Health Organisation.
CARPHA will not accept funding or any other support from entities with ties to the tobacco industry.