(CMR) Ian Stein, Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)/ World Health Organization (WHO) representative to Jamaica, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, was in Cayman for a two-day visit last week to re-engage partnerships affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and bolster public health initiatives.
The PAHO/WHO visit commenced on Monday, 30 May, with a courtesy call to Hon. Premier G. Wayne Panton, Minister for Health, Wellness and Home Affairs Hon. Sabrina Turner and other senior officials. This was followed by Mr. Stein presenting his credentials as PAHO/WHO representative to His Excellency the Governor, Mr. Martyn Roper.
The Ministry of Health and Wellness also led robust discussions with both local stakeholders and PAHO/WHO officials to advance public health.
“Leadership is key to improving public health. The Cayman Islands is fortunate to have leaders with a clear vision for achieving this goal – that shows demonstrable promise for the future of public health and explains why Cayman has been successful thus far in the pandemic,” said Mr. Stein.
He continued, “Now is the best opportunity to improve focus on achievable public health priorities for the coming years. The landscape for population health remains dynamic amidst the impact of climate change, the increase in vector-borne diseases, and the push to refocus on routine health priorities. PAHO/WHO stands ready to support.”
The visit by the PAHO/WHO contingent coincided with the observation of World No Tobacco Day, which was celebrated internationally under the theme, “Tobacco: Threat to our environment.” It aims to highlight the environmental impact of the entire tobacco cycle, from cultivation, production, and distribution to the toxic waste it generates.
“Tobacco has an extremely harmful impact on the body and the environment. While tobacco kills over 8 million persons each year and incapacitates many more, tobacco products also cause wide-scale pollution. Tobacco waste can reach 40% of litter found on beaches, the butts leach toxic chemicals such as arsenic and lead into the environment, and tobacco production is also responsible for 600 million trees being chopped down to make 6 trillion cigarettes every year, contributing to deforestation,” said Mr. Stein.
The Cayman Islands Public Health department has led a successful smoking cessation program, with a pass rate of eighty-six percent or higher. The in-depth program includes biometric testing to assess baseline health levels, group/individual counseling, and pharmaceutical aid.
While the program moved to remote delivery after the start of the pandemic, patients are still given support from the attending physician and pharmacist.
Visiting and local health professionals also discussed a still-in-development ‘quit-line' that will provide 24/7 support to persons who have decided to give up tobacco consumption. Officials explained tobacco dependence remains a major public health threat and to remain aligned with the World Health Organization's requirements for the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
“We have come to have a greater appreciation for preventative health measures due to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Helping persons to quit tobacco consumption now, and making it more difficult for persons to begin consumption, provides for a healthier future and increased stability for our healthcare system”, said Minister Turner.
“I am duly grateful to PAHO for their investment and trust that the people of the Cayman Islands will maximize this resource as we work to become a beacon of wellness within the region,” she added.
Mr. Stein commented on the impressive results of the cessation program as it offered a way out of a deadly addiction.
The quit-line is expected to launch at the end of 2022.