World Bank and the Caribbean move towards universal health coverage

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A medical doctor. Picture courtesy of Tima Miroshnichenko

In light of the disruptions to healthcare delivery caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic, the World Bank says healthcare policymakers and professionals in several Caribbean countries are implementing measures to improve health system resilience and quicken progress toward Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

According to a news release, the Washington-based financial institution made the point on Wednesday 26 October as delegates from seven Caribbean countries gathered to discuss pressing policy reforms and share insights at a three-day Caribbean Flagship Regional Knowledge Exchange. “This first knowledge exchange focused on three topical areas vital for sector modernization, intending to improve health outcomes, patient experiences and healthcare cost management,” the organisation said in a statement. “Caribbean countries have prioritized strengthening the control of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), improving the hospital sector, and the health management information systems for system-wide transformation,” it added, stating that Caribbean countries are investing in resilient infrastructure such as hospitals and modern information and communication technology (ICT) systems, and experimenting with innovative sustainable models of health sector management.

Lilia Burunciuc, World Bank Director for Caribbean Countries, said “modernizing health services is one of the most significant investments a country can make… Without good health, children are unable to go to school, and adults are unable to work and be productive”.

“As countries in the Caribbean are embarking on ambitious health reforms, creating a space for knowledge exchange, collaboration, and cross-fertilization is crucial. We hope this regional event will allow countries to learn from each other and build long-lasting connections to support them, as they progress with their health reforms,” Burunciuc added.

The World Bank said over 70 delegates, including senior representatives from ministries of health, as well as hospitals managers and several other ministries in St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize, Grenada, Jamaica, Sint Maarten and Dominica will exchange their policy and operational experiences and share knowledge about challenges, reforms underway and innovations in the remaining days of the event.

St Lucia’s Minister of Health, Wellness and Elderly Affairs Moses Jn Baptiste stated, “To achieve Universal Health Coverage, we must deliver measurable results, however small…. In St Lucia, we have started with our centers of excellence, and we try hard not to make Universal health an abstract phenomenon. We have also put wellness in focus, not just illness.”

The World Bank said its practitioners, as well as those from South Korea, Colombia, Canada, Spain and Guatemala will share experiences with Caribbean colleagues, “providing a global perspective to create a platform for technical dialogue and collaboration to support the reforms desired by these countries.”

The World Bank noted that Goal 3 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals emphasizes achieving UHC and access to quality health care.

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