Professor Henry FraserArchitecural Historian / Heritage Consultant
Chairman, Sentinel Committee, Barbados National Trust
Writer, TV Presenter, National Orator & Motivational Speaker
Professor Emertius, Medicine and Clinical Pharmacology.
Immediate Past Dean, Faculty of Medical Sciences.
University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados.


Article Index

COMMON SENSE & EVIDENCE # 226, Summit on Chronic Diseases, September 23, 2007

Professor Henry Fraser

“If you want to do something quickly, do it alone. If you want to achieve a lot, do it together.” (Sir Ken Stuart, personal observation)

“We have spoken with one voice, leading to all of us pulling together in one direction, on one rope.” (Prime Minister Owen Arthur’s concluding remarks at CARICOM Summit)

September 15th should go down in history. It was the first time, anywhere in the world, that a group of Heads of Government have held a meeting at the highest level, to tackle the challenge of the chronic disease epidemic. Fifteen Heads, chaired by our own Prime Minister, approved the Declaration of Port of Spain. The theme was “Unite against Chronic Diseases – Stop the Epidemic.”

This was the culmination of a series of events over some years, beginning with the documentation of the epidemic by researchers (summarised in this column on September 9th); efforts, particularly by PAHO, to tackle diabetes; efforts by some governments to introduce diabetes clinics; more recent national strategic health plans; and especially the report of the Caribbean Commission on Health and Development, chaired by Sir George Alleyne, Director Emeritus of PAHO / WHO and Chancellor of the UWI.

The UWI has very much led the way, developing first a Chronic Disease Research Centre (CDRC), at the Cave Hill Campus, in 1992, with the specific mission of researching these diseases from childhood to old age and develop interventions to tackle them; and then the Epidemiological Research Unit at the Mona Campus in Jamaica.

These and the other units of the Tropical Medicine Research Institute collaborate in addressing the problems, and the CDRC is now working with Government’s Statistical Department to run a Behavioural Risk Factor Survey and is contracted by the Ministry of Health to run a National Heart and Stroke Register. The Declaration of Port of Spain commits to regional cooperation in a 14 point plan, including such projects, and to resource strengthening to achieve them. And a Task Force (led by Dr. Eddie Green, Assistant Director of the CARICOM Secretariat, and Sir George Alleyne) will carry plans forward.

As a noisy advocate for such a regional approach, I had the privilege of speaking on behalf of our Vice Chancellor, Professor Harris, to the Heads. My address follows:

“Chairman, sages, down the ages, have always said: “There is a time for everything and everything in its time.” The time has come to tackle the epidemic of chronic diseases that are maiming and killing the people of the Caribbean, and this historic gathering of CARICOM Heads of Governments is a splendid signal of a more cohesive Caribbean. Perhaps a similar summit should address West Indies cricket!

But we build on the shoulders of the giants of the past – the research of the late Professor Rolf Richards, the first person to study what I call the Caribbean “Obesidemic” – of Sir Ken Stuart, of Dr. Theo Poon King, of Dr. Gloria Beckles and the late Dr. George Miller, of Sir George Alleyne himself and of Professor Trevor Hassell – all of whose work over 50 years has led the way for us.

And the University of the West Indies has increasingly focused its research on the growing epidemic, across our medical faculties and especially in the Research Units of the Tropical Medicine Research Institute in Jamaica and Barbados, where we have defined the problems, elucidated risk factors and addressed solutions, while desperately trying to build the skills and capacity we need to do the job well.

Our challenge, ladies and gentlemen, is to work together both to build research capacity and to use what we have built productively, to tackle more effectively the key problems of:

    Data collection

    Behavioural Risk Factor (BRF) Surveillance

    Research on behaviour change

    Primary prevention

    Monitoring and evaluating effectiveness of intervention – this is most important!

    The question of evidence over myths and quackery, and

    The social and financial mechanisms for change, such as:
    Tobacco control
    Healthy food supplies
    Green spaces and twon planning issues supporting physical and mental health

And the process for coordinating them, specifically National Chronic Non-Communicable Disease Commissions (NCN-CDCs).

Finally Chairman, the synergies that can result from full partnership between Governments, University and other agencies such as CHRC, PAHO, WHO and CAREC especially, can transform the health of our people, accelerate national development and realise the fulfilment of happy, healthy Caribbean communities.

The University, through its Medical Faculties, Research Centres, Social, Economic and Education Departments, can provide governments with research and policy formulation for translating research into action, especially through effective public health leadership training, which is a major priority.

Of course, we need a few more tools, and I hope today’s summit will produce and perhaps add to the Declaration a line item for research in our health budgets. One possible source of this could be from the increased taxation of tobacco and alcohol, and it would greatly accelerate the results of this regional effort on behalf of our people.

I can confidently speak on behalf of our Vice Chancellor, our medical research leaders Professor Forrester, Professor Wilks and Dr. Hennis, and all the members of our UWI team, in saying that the UWI is at the service of our governments and our people, in helping to determine the way forward and translate this Declaration of Port of Spain into positive action. The magic word, Chairman, is ‘Partnership, partnership, partnership.’

I thank you.”

Henry Fraser Historic Houses Of Barbados Book CoverHistoric Houses of Barbados
Written by Henry Fraser & Ronnie Huges.
Available at all book leading book stores in Barbados.

Henry Fraser Treasures Of Barbados Book CoverTreasures of Barbados
Written by Sir George Alleyne and edited by Henry Fraser.
Available at the UWI Bookshop the publishers.

Henry Fraser Chattle House Book CoverBarbados Chattel Houses
Written by Henry Fraser and Bob Kiss.
Available at all leading book stores.

Henry Fraser A-Z Barbados Book CoverA-Z of Barbados Heritage
Written by Sean Carrington, Henry Fraser, John Gilmore and Addington Forde.
Available at Days Bookstore Barbados and

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