The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has approved a US$110 million loan for Trinidad and Tobago to prevent and control risk factors of chronic diseases among adults, and primary and secondary school students. The program will strengthen the delivery of integrated primary care services; implement behavior change programs and policies; improve health information management practices; and ensure adequate human resources for health.
The project will contribute to reducing by ten percent, the mortality rate caused by common chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart disease, hypertension, cerebrovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer, and chronic respiratory illness, which currently account for 60 percent of all deaths in Trinidad and Tobago. Overall, chronic diseases account for 78 percent of all deaths in the country.
The program will also reduce by five percent, the prevalence of overweight and obesity among primary school children. A study conducted in 2009-2010 found that 23 percent of primary school children and 25 percent of secondary school children in Trinidad and Tobago were overweight or obese. This finding represents an approximate 300 percent increase over the number of children who were found to be overweight or obese in 2001.
A school-based child and adolescent obesity prevention program called “Healthy Schools TT” will use a combination of physical activity and nutrition initiatives, together with family support, to enable children to eat healthier foods and to be more active. Upon a successful completion of a pilot program, the “Healthy Schools TT” initiative will be implemented nationwide, reaching approximately 260,000 children and adolescents in pre-primary, primary, and secondary schools. The program will also finance “green” durable outdoor gyms, health education materials, and research teams.
This health initiative for Trinidad and Tobago is also poised to design and implement a nationwide electronic health information management system (e-HIMS) in order to generate ‘real-time’, quality data for decision-making on clinical matters, patient management and continuity of care, and resource allocation. A standardized electronic health record will be the foundation module of the e-HIMS, which will connect the Regional Health Authority and the ministry of health into a single network.
Trinidad and Tobago is also suffering from a shortage of primary care physicians and nurses. A recent assessment showed a 55 percent vacancy rate among physicians and a 34 percent vacancy rate among nurses. To address this need, this IDB project will implement a recruitment and retention strategy to ensure adequate human resources for health.