U.S. Invites Regional Health Practitioners to Tackle Zika

Dr. Natalie Dick,Specialist Developmental - Behavioral Pediatrician, Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex; Lisa Noguchi, Zika Response Team Lead, USAID Maternal and Child Survival Program USA; Rhea Bright, Senior Quality Improvement Advisor, USAID, Washington; and Alana Shury, Zika Project Managem

More than 80 health professionals including doctors, nurses, midwives, and health administrators from across the Eastern and Southern Caribbean, Brazil, and Colombia attended a recent forum on Zika, organized by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and in collaboration with Trinidad and Tobago’s Ministry of Health and the Caribbean Regional Midwives Association (CRMA). Attendees met to share best practices, discuss challenges, and strengthen their knowledge base on the Zika epidemic.

At the launch of the two-day workshop, “Care of Infants and Their Families Affected by Zika in English-Speaking Caribbean Countries,” Rhea Bright, Senior Quality Improvement Advisor from USAID Washington, said USAID was pleased to partner with regional governments and other development organizations to work toward sustainable health care initiatives that support affected infants and families.

“Our work at this stage includes strengthening our systems to prevent a future outbreak, while simultaneously lessening the burden of Congenital Zika Syndrome (CZS) on the affected infants and their families. In order to accomplish this, emphasis must be placed on early detection of infants with CZS, psychological support for families, follow-up and systematic early intervention,” she said.

Despite various challenges facing the region, including that of improving referral services and ensuring the inclusion of the father in the care-giving role, Ms. Bright said USAID, working through its flagship Maternal and Child Survival Program, is committed to achieving the best possible outcomes for affected children in keeping with their basic rights under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Dr. Adesh Sirjusingh, Director of Women’s Health in Trinidad and Tobago’s Ministry of Health, said the Ministry was pleased to be associated with the workshop. “Trinidad and Tobago has made great strides over the years and especially in the recent past with respect to reducing morbidity and mortality in our mothers and babies. The new unit, which I head, has been charged with coordinating these efforts and the efforts of many stakeholders. I use this forum to publicly express my gratitude to all local, regional and international stakeholders in helping T&T to achieve several of the SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) 2030 targets that were set for this region in the year 2017,” he said.

During the workshop, participants benefitted from panel discussions and country group sessions that offer knowledge updates and progress in the region. Topics include: an overview of the Zika epidemic in the Caribbean, strategies to improve survival and identification of infants with CZS, improving access to care, building resilience, assessment of neurocognitive functioning at two years of age in children exposed to Zika in utero, and designing a registry to track Zika-affected pregnancies and infants.