Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer, and chronic respiratory diseases and their four primary shared risk factors—tobacco, poor diet, physical inactivity, and excessive alcohol—plague the Caribbean, serving as leading causes of morbidity, mortality and disability. Because both international and regional laws can stem the tide on these preventable diseases, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Caribbean Court of Justice Academy for Law (CAFL) are jointly convening the Caribbean Public Health Forum; this virtual network of government officials, attorneys, public health officials, and other stakeholders will leverage the law to tackle some of the most formidable public health challenges.
With support from The Union’s Tobacco Control Department, the Forum had its official virtual launch on 30 June. Its current 64 members are from nine CARICOM Member States and all 5 Associate States, including 44 government officials working in health and/or law, along with representatives from various regional organizations and institutions; these include the CARICOM Secretariat, the CARICOM Single Market and Economy Unit, the Office of Trade Negotiations, the Caribbean Public Health Agency, the CCJ Academy for Law, and the Law Faculty of the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill. During the launch, members from various regional and subregional organizations in health and/or law, civil society organizations, academia, and Member States discussed the Forum’s significance and its expected outcomes, including improved capacity, knowledge-sharing, and cross-Caribbean cooperation.
“Building legal capacity among experts is absolutely key to tobacco control,” said The Union’s Gustavo Sonora. “The Forum members are well positioned to ensure that the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) is implemented across the Caribbean so that its impact is amplified.”