Brazil RC ‘walk with Jesus’
April 7, 2019
Learn the language of sports motivation
April 7, 2019

Transforming the health of the nation

By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ & Director, CREDI

Today, April 7, we observe World Health Day. The theme is: Universal health coverage: everyone, everywhere.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says that key to achieving universal health is “ensuring that everyone can obtain the care they need, when they need it, right in the heart of the community. Progress is being made in countries in all regions of the world. But millions of people still have no access at all to health care. Millions more are forced to choose between health care and other daily expenses such as food, clothing and even a home.”

Pope Francis rightly states that “Health is not a consumer good but a universal right, so access to health services cannot be a privilege…In many parts of the world… basic health care is denied to too many people.”

In today’s throwaway culture where the lives of the elderly, the poor, the differently abled, the unborn are often ignored, remember his words: “A healthcare organization that is efficient and capable of addressing inequalities cannot forget that its raison d’être is compassion.”

In 1948, WHO defined ‘health’ as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. In June 2011, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) published a paper by Machteld Huber and colleagues proposed changing the emphasis of the definition “towards the ability to adapt and self-manage in the face of social, physical, and emotional challenges”.

The BMJ states that “the WHO definition of health as complete wellbeing is no longer fit for purpose given the rise of chronic diseases as populations age and the pattern of illnesses changes the definition may even be counterproductive”.

The internet is full of advice as to what we can do to maintain good health e.g. make healthier food choices, get regular exercise, lose weight if you are overweight, protect your skin, limit your intake of alcohol, don’t smoke/use tobacco or take illicit drugs, learn how to manage stress, get a good night’s sleep.

Preventive care includes regular checkups by your doctor, dentist, optometrist etc. Years ago, a nutritionist advised me to fill half my plate with non-starchy vegetables, a quarter of the plate with protein, and the final quarter with whole grains or starchy vegetables. As I have found out, yo-yo diets are not good for our bodies.

In T&T we know that the health care system is deficient in many ways. One of the aims of the 2019 budget was to promote higher standards of health care. After Education/Training, and National Security, Health received the third largest sum in the budget—$5.695 billion.

Is there effective monitoring/evaluation of how this sum is used? We must improve operational efficiency at our medical facilities and delivery of services in the health sector e.g. speciality services, lab services and the number of beds to accommodate patients. Some still have to sleep in corridors or on floors in some of our public hospitals because of a shortage of beds.

There continues to be complaints that certain CDAP medicines are not available; customer service at some health centres and hospitals could be improved; human resource issues continue to plague the sector.

Some other challenges include: the rising prevalence of non communicable diseases, a shortage of specialists and a shortage of nurses. Our infrastructure often impacts adversely on the health of the nation e.g. access to clean drinking water and proper sanitation, and undermines the Total Quality core value of the Ministry of Health.

Let’s promote the dignity of each human being and build the common good by working to ensure universal health care for everyone, everywhere.


“The most important thing in the life of every man and every woman is not that they should never fall along the way. The important thing is always to get back up, not to stay on the ground licking your wounds.”

Pope Francis, The Name of God is Mercy

 CCSJ Social Justice Education Committee

Pope Francis: “Health is not a consumer good but a universal right, so access to health services cannot be a privilege…”