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Moves To Strengthen Health Financing In The Caribbean

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Under the umbrella of the Alliance for Primary Health Care (A4PHC), the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the World Bank, and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) convened a two-day interactive event, the Caribbean Health Financing Forum, this week to explore avenues for strengthening health financing in the Caribbean.

Representatives from health and finance ministries across the Caribbean, including those from the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, participated in the Forum at the World Bank Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

During the Forum, Dr. Rhonda Sealey-Thomas, PAHO Assistant Director, highlighted the region’s leadership in Primary Health Care and stressed the need for comprehensive health financing strategies.

She outlined challenges in ensuring sustainable health financing, including the Caribbean’s dependence on global tourism revenue, increasing climate change-induced natural disasters, and the disproportionate impact of external economic shocks.

Currently, public health spending in the Caribbean is low (3.6% of GDP) and out-of-pocket expenses are high (nearly 31% of current health spending). This places a significant burden on households and frequently leads to catastrophic health expenditure and impoverishment.

However, according to the PAHO Assistant Director, “fiscal space analysis, domestic resource mobilization, enhanced financial risk protection, and improved efficiency and coordination in health financing,” would enable the region to build resilient health systems anchored in Primary Health Care.

The Caribbean Health Financing Forum covered a range of topics, including advancing health financing reforms, reversing declining financial protection for Universal Health Coverage (UHC), lessons learned from health insurance, and strategies for mobilizing, pooling, and allocating resources for UHC financing.

Furthermore, attendees shared country-specific presentations and experiences, with a focus on strategic purchasing, data utilization, and driving reforms in health financing at the primary care level.

Closing the Forum, Mary Lou Valdez, Deputy Director of PAHO, underscored the critical need to improve the production and analysis of information that allows countries to identify individuals facing financial barriers to accessing health services, and to understand the main drivers of out-of-pocket spending that may result in financial hardship in Caribbean populations.

“Let us then move forward and translate our discussions into action,” she added, reiterating PAHO’s commitment to collaborating with all countries, alongside the World Bank and the IDB, to continue the dialogue and provide support in implementing national strategies aimed at improving health and finance within each country.

A key outcome of the Forum’s deliberations highlighted the urgent need for data generation, capacity building in health financing, and facilitating the exchange of experiences to advance of health financing policies within the framework of universal health and strong primary health care-based resilient health systems in the Caribbean.

Alliance for Primary Health Care in the Americas
The Alliance for Primary Health Care in the Americas, a collaboration between PAHO, the IDB, and the World Bank, aims to bolster investment, innovation, and implementation of policies and initiatives to transform health systems in the Americas, with a strong emphasis on primary health care.

SOURCE: Pan American Health Organization

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