On Wednesday night the top two officials from the Healthy Caribbean Coalition began a two day working visit to Belize. The organization serves as a link between non-governmental organizations and individuals promoting issues of non-communicable diseases and especially cancer.
Adjunct Professor of medicine at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill, Barbados, Sir Trevor Hassell, is the President of the Coalition and told us that Belize’s Cancer Society, the local affiliate, has been recognized for its work in bringing awareness to the issue of cervical cancer among women.
“Well, the successes have been that first of all, the Belize Cancer Society has been very effective in screening of pap tests on 600 Belizeans who have otherwise would not have had those pap. The tests were sometimes done in the persons’ homes. The challenges are mostly around the fact that most of these persons in disadvantaged situations were really not aware of the orders of pap test. So, they had to be informed and educated, and then encouraged to have the test”.
Professor Hassell added that it is not only important for individuals to live healthy lifestyles – avoiding foods high in sugar, fat, salt and so on and not alcohol drinking, smoking or practicing other harmful behaviours – but for there to be an enabling environment in the country for this to happen.
At an opening reception held at the Belize City office of the Cancer Society, Sir Trevor and the Coalition’s manager, Maisha Hutton, met with a number of local health professionals and field workers and provided examples of how NGO’s charged with promoting responsible and healthy lifestyles can work with each other on common issues.
One example is the regional e-petition against cervical cancer, which has amassed 10,000 signatures to be presented to regional leaders later this year. But thanks to the work of the local Cancer Society, Belize is leading the way for its fellow CARICOM countries. Hutton tells us more.
“This is the first petition of its kind in the Caribbean around asking people to stand and say “listen, there is a problem in cervical cancer; there is no reason why six women should be dying every day or any woman should be dying when this is 95% preventable”. We need to do more about this and this is our role. Added to that we have said, “let’s get as many people to sign this electronic petition. Go to www.endcervicalcancernow.org and sign it. On the Belize Cancer Society, we use all of their resources outreach. They call people, they got their staff excited and motivated, engaged and today as petition stands at 10,000 signatures across the Caribbean, Belize is leading at almost 3,000 signatures; leading over countries such as Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad. So, we are very proud of the Belize Cancer Society”.
The Coalition is seeking partnerships with similar associations like the Diabetes Association to participate in future initiatives like next year’s Heart Association seminar on hypertension, a campaign against smoking in public areas. It also coordinates use of resources and some funding for these organizations.