Ministry of Health & Social Development
House of Assembly
Release Date:
Friday, 30 June 2023 - 3:40pm





THURSDAY, 29th JUNE 2023

Update on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Ministerial Meeting on Non-communicable Diseases and Mental Health

Madam Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to provide a report to this Honorable House on my recent trip to Barbados from the 11th to the 16th of June to attend the PAHO/WHO SIDS (Small Island Developing States) Ministerial Conference on Chronic Diseases and Mental Health and its significance to the Territory.  This meeting follows on from the earlier Technical Meeting also organized by PAHO/WHO also held in Barbados from the 17th to 18th of January which was attended by the Chief Medical Officer.  At the meeting in June, there were representatives from 39 Small Island Developing States (SIDS) countries and 18 Associate Members from all six World Health Organization regions, around the Globe.  The resolution agreed to by Ministers of SIDS will be taken forward to the next UN General Assembly in September 2023, the next World Health Assembly in January 2024 and the issues will find themselves on the Agenda of Conference of the Parties COP 28 in December 2023.  At COP 28 UN Climate Change Conference, issues of climate change and health will be on the agenda.

At the UN General Assembly, COP 28, and the World Health Assembly countries will be considering many issues, but the specific concerns of SIDS, Chronic Diseases, and Mental Health will be represented.  A strong message from all SIDS from the Bridgetown Initiative which is a clarion call from SIDS for development funding to be allocated on a more equitable basis considering the special vulnerability of SIDS.   In consideration of the special vulnerability of SIDS due to climate change the initiative calls for reforms in how SIDS can access international development funding to invest in health and other emergent issues, because of climate change and highlight concrete actions required on the world stage to deal with the pandemic of chronic diseases and mental health issues.  The Bridgetown Agreement is a landmark agreement designed to ensure that the largest polluters and contributors to climate change pay their fair share and the Small Island Developing States such as these Virgin Islands have access to the necessary capital, emergency liquidity, and grants at a fair and equitable price to mitigate these climate change impacts.

As the new Minister of Health, the exposure to best practices and networking with colleagues from SIDS around the world was invaluable.  I also took the opportunity to visit the Winston Scott Polyclinic in Bridgetown and observe primary health care in action.  I also met with the director of the Chronic Disease Research Center, and took time to visit St. Michael’s College, the premier secondary school in Bridgetown and discuss with the principle how she incorporates programs such as Health and Family Life Education across the curriculum and other health promoting interventions.  These informal engagements were a welcome addition to what was a very important conference.

The conference highlighted the need to involve all sectors of Government, civil society, and both service users and persons with lived experiences in the process of making policy and developing and evaluating programs.  The role of the commercial sector and in particular the impact of commercial determinants on health was highlighted.  Madam Speaker, Government cannot act alone and where commercial activity is having negative impacts on health the sector must be engaged as vigorously as when we engage them on positive matters.  The actions that negatively affect health and those required to positively impact health are not only in the Health Sector but also in every sector of Government and society.  Hence a whole of Society approach is needed.

Health is often seen as a net consumer of government revenue and questions about revenue collection always arise.  While revenue collection is very important it is also equally important to not view health as a cost to society and the public purse, but more so as an investment in our greatest and most important resource.  Health is an investment in people and the development of the Territory.  Health is a complete state of mental, physical, spiritual, and social wellbeing, not just the absence of disease.  Hon Mia Amor Mottley stated at the conference that health is everyone’s “first wealth”.  The World Health Organization’s Universal Health Care Strategy, underscores the importance of ensuring equitable access to health care.  It is imperative for us to ensure that appropriate, needed, health care is accessible without bias.  Without healthy people we do not have productive people.  Without productive people we do not have a productive economy.  Without these we cannot develop as a Territory.  Interestingly enough a healthy people is also a sign of a thriving economy and well developed Territory.  The two-go hand in hand. 


Fitsroy Randall

Information Officer I
Ministry of Health and Social Development
Vornicia's House of Commerce, Long Bush
Tortola, British Virgin Islands
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