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PAHO: 2016, year of serious challenges and important successes in the Caribbean

Published:Saturday | December 24, 2016 | 12:36 PM

WASHINGTON (CMC):
From the Zika epidemic and the birth of thousands of babies with congenital malformations, through the declaration of measles as eliminated from the Americas, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) says 2016 is a year of “serious challenges and important successes” for health in the Caribbean and other places in the Americas.

The Washington-based health organization said that it worked with the countries of the region to address emergencies and disasters, including Hurricane Matthew in Haiti, while continuing to support country efforts to reduce, control and even eliminate myriad diseases.

PAHO said it also published a number of new reports and issued guidance on key health issues, including its new Nutrient Profile Model, which establishes criteria for defining excess levels of sugar, salt and fats in processed foods and beverages, “all to improve the health of people in the region”.

The Epidemiological Reports include background on first autochthonous vector-borne cases, trend, circulation of other arbo viruses, Zika virus disease in pregnant women, Zika complications, national Zika surveillance guidelines, laboratory capacity, and information sharing.

In 2016, PAHO declared the following countries with Zika virus: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolvia, Bonaire, Sint Eustace, Saba, Brazil, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador and El Salvador.

The others are French Guiana, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Martinique, Mexico, Montserrat, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Martin, St Kitts-Nevis, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, United States and Venezuela.

In February, PAHO defined new criteria for what is “too much” sugar, salt and fat in processed food and drinks in presenting a new Nutrient Profile Model.

“The model is intended to help Caribbean governments develop more effective policies to encourage healthy eating,” said PAHO, stating that the overall objective is to improve unhealthy dietary patterns in the region “that are contributing to the growing epidemic of chronic diseases, ”such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.