Children of the Caribbean, Inc. is committed to supporting health projects which get little or no attention and funding but have a major impact on children in developing countries.  We focus our efforts on diseases and medical ailments that cause significant illness and death among children in the Caribbean.

The mortality rate for children between ages 1 to 4 in the United States is approximately 2 per 1,000 live births, in many developing countries it is 50 to 75 times greater.  In fact, in most poor countries, for every 1,000 births, there are 100 to 150 deaths in the first year and an additional 100 to 150 deaths before age 5.  Many international health experts regard the combination of these two rates, i.e. the mortality of children under 5 per 1,000 live births, as the best single statistic for evaluating the overall health status of a developing country. Because of extremely high death rates for infants and young children, 50% to 60% of all deaths in the poorest developing countries occur before the age of 5, as compared to about 3% in the U.S. where about 90% of death occur after age 45.1

The best data on mortality in the developing world come from large on-going studies sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

Countries in the Caribbean share a similar history in the development of their health systems.  They have often cooperated to deal with many of the challenges to health which they have had to confront.  However, there is need for even greater collaboration and cooperation among the countries of the Region, given the increasing threats to the economies of these countries and the presence of newly emerging and re-emerging problems in the health sector.  Efforts, therefore, have to be focused not only on the fight against disease, but on promoting healthy lifestyles, protecting the environment and increasing the capacity of the health sector to provide quality services and value for money.2

Major Cause of Mortality in the Region
Over the last forty years non-communicable diseases, violence and the “new” sexually transmitted diseases have gained priority ranking over other infectious diseases as the major causes of mortality in the Caribbean.  Lifestyles and environmental hazards are major contributing factors.

In the past, a curative approach to health care was fueled by the discovery of antibiotics.  Cost effective technologies and interventions like immunizations and pure water supply yielded massive returns in the treatment of communicable diseases.  The prevention and control of chronic diseases, on the other hand, pose different and major challenges.  Prominent among them are the costs of medication, hospitalization and long-term treatment and the difficulty in persuading individuals to change their behavior.  It has become evident that a broader approach to the problem of chronic disease and the protection of health is required.

Health in the Caribbean region must be treated, in its widest perspective, as a primary tool in human and economic development, focusing on public policies conducive to prevention of disease and on promotion of well being and productivity.  At an individual and community level, dynamic health education, augmented by multi-sector action, enables people to control and modify personal practices and living conditions that improve their health.

Family Health
Concern about the health of mothers and children has been a priority for Caribbean Health Services for over 50 years.  Despite these efforts, there remain the growing and widespread problems of child abuse and neglect throughout Caribbean society which require urgent attention. There is also need to accelerate the development of appropriate preventive, educational and rehabilitative services relating to children with disabilities.  Another long standing problem is asthma in childhood, a critical respiratory disorder in Caribbean children, requiring specific approaches and practices for its prevention and treatment.

In more recent times, attention has shifted to an approach which considers the health of the family unit in the Caribbean.  This shift in focus has brought about a situation whereby countries in the region are using the life cycle approach to deal with population groups, such as infants, young children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly.

There is, however, a need to concentrate attention on some areas.  Children of the Caribbean, Inc. assists in providing services for young children and adolescents while continuing to address expanded services.

Food and Nutrition
Traditionally, where energy intake is concerned, the Caribbean’s main concern has been under-nutrition, resulting in Energy Protein Malnutrition (EPM) which accounts for unacceptably high rates in some vulnerable groups in the region.  For the past few decades, there has been an increase in the prevalence of obesity, principally in adults, but also to some extent in adolescents and infants.

In the region, food production has long been surpassed by consumption and today the countries depend to a large extent on food importation.  In fact, most of the energy and protein requirements are fulfilled by importation of raw or processed foods or food components.  The region has a mere 6 million people yet over 1.5 billion US dollars is spent each year on food imports.

Most English-speaking Caribbean countries are progressively moving away from regulated markets involving direct state intervention in food marketing activities and price controls on basic foodstuffs to more liberalized marketing systems.  The creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995 substantially affects international trade in agricultural products which is an important aspect of the food security problem.

Thirty plus years ago food security in the Caribbean may have been conceived mainly as a supply problem i.e. attempting to increase the availability of various foods.  Now, with availability of calories and protein much in excess of average requirement, the focus of food and nutrition security must include issues of cost-efficient food distribution and consumer education to achieve nutritional adequacy at the household level.

Communicable Diseases
Tuberculosis has re-emerged as a major public health problem because of poverty, malnutrition, diminished control efforts, the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the emergence of multiple-drug-resistant strains of the causative agent (Mycobacterium tuberculosis).  It is therefore necessary for countries to re-establish tuberculosis as a priority problem and allocate the necessary resources for its control.

Health Issues concerning Caribbean Children:
The findings of recent school-based studies on adolescent health have shown:

*  A high percentage of in-school youth is sexually active.  They have multiple
sexual partners at an early age; and 50% of them do not use any
contraceptives.  They do not worry about HIV/AIDS.
*  Not enough progress has been made in breast feeding practices and the
management of common childhood diseases e.g. ARI/Asthma.
*  Greater attention needs to be paid to new programs e.g. prevention of
developmental and other disabilities and prevention of child abuse and
neglect.
*  Information systems to capture relevant data to facilitate planning and programming
needs to be strengthened.
*  With the increasing prevalence of obesity in adolescents and infants, there is
an increase in nutrition-related chronic diseases such as diabetes mellitus,
heart attacks and some forms of cancer.
*  The determination of food goals needs careful analysis as it must relate to the
agricultural policy and economic opportunities in each specific country.
*  Iron deficiency anemia remains a problem in pregnant women and pre-school
and school aged children.  This has been attributed to inadequate iron intake
and to poor absorption.
*  Tuberculosis has re-emerged as a major public health problem.
*  Epidemiological surveillance needs to be strengthened and effective treatment
and prophylaxis needs to be implemented to control the HIV/AIDS epidemic in
the Caribbean.

OUR APPROACH
*  Children of the Caribbean, Inc. makes alliances between the mass media and
health interest groups toward successful communication of health promotion
and prevention activities. We act as advocates for quality and we encourage
the media to do the same.

*   We facilitate social marketing of health-related policies that promote efficient
use of health resources and also alliances between health and pharmaceutical
and equipment suppliers.

*   Children of the Caribbean, Inc., establishes alliances with tertiary institutions
(regional and extra regional).  Through collaborations with stakeholders –
Ministries of Health, Ministries of Education, Caribbean Health Secretariat,
private sector.

*  We support organizations that promote physical activities and sports and work
toward developing awareness in these organizations about the importance of
diet in enhancing physical activities and sport.

*  In 2011, Children of the Caribbean, Inc. supports the Cyril Ross Nursery, in
Tunapuna, Trinidad (click here to learn more about the nursery) .  Cyril Ross
Nursery is one of seventeen institutions of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul,
and it is the only one for children.  It is a home to HIV positive children who
were abandoned at the Port-of-Spain General hospital or to children who are
HIV positive and are also orphans.  It is the only institution in the entire
Caribbean that addresses the need of children living with HIV and AIDS both
as residents and out patients. (See Cyril Ross Fundraiser under Events).

Please Note:
Unless otherwise indicated, information provided on the Education and Health Care of Countries in the Caribbean (above) was taken directly from:

Regional Overview:
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s
Latin American and the Caribbean
EFA [Education for All] Global Monitoring Report 2011

¹“How the Other Half Dies”, The Major Causes of Death and Disease in Developing Countries available at: http://www.imva.org/Pages/deadtxt.htm

²“Caribbean Cooperation in Health – Phase II – May 1999” by CCH (Caribbean Cooperation in Health) Secretariat