Saint Lucian Health and Finance Delegation attend meeting on International Dialogue on Sustainable Financing for NCDs and Mental Health

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St. Lucia – The Saint Lucian delegation comprised of the Chief Medical Officer Dr. Sharon Belmar- George and Senior Budget Analyst Ms. Merelicia Collymore who attended the high-level meeting on “International Dialogue on Sustainable Financing for NCDs and Mental Health” from June20-21st, 2024 in Washington DC, USA.

Globally, Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) represent 74% of all deaths and 82% on a local level in Saint Lucia. Mental Health disorders account for one in six years lived with disability globally and we note these conditions continue to increase locally. Additionally, 1 in 7 children suffer from mental health related disorders globally, with at least 1 in 4 children requiring the assistance of caregivers. It is also indeed a sad reality that globally every 11 minutes someone dies as a result of suicide.

Non-communicable diseases and mental health has been included in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development- with the commitment to reduce premature mortality from non-communicable diseases by one third through the prevention, treatment and the promotion of mental health and well-being by 2030 (SDG target 3.4.1). Interestingly, only 3 countries are on the path to achieving this milestone.

The effective management of NCDs and Mental Health require additional investments in health. Traditionally although public health is not revenue generating, the cost of the lack of investment into the primary/ preventative health system comes at a major cost to countries. It is paramount that the mindset of health as non-producing be shifted and instead be viewed as an agency that produces healthy individuals who can contribute positively to society. The benefits of health investment include healthy a population, increased productively of the working population and major savings in relation to hospital/secondary care.

Through the implementation of national systemic strategies to prevent, manage NCDs and integrate mental health conditions as the focus of Primary healthcare and Universal Healthcare (UHC), it is imperative that the responses are positioned in the development of financing plans and resource allocation processes.

The objectives of this meeting were to define and start building consensus among a range of stakeholders on actionable strategies and policy recommendations that can enable and enhance the integration of NCDs and mental health responses in national budget systems. This serves to ensure sustainable, adequate, stable and predictable financing to facilitate strategic purchasing and enhance financial protection to allow high quality, equitable NCD and mental health services on island.

Dr. Belmar- George, who participated and presented during the conference was elated for the opportunity for dialogue and discussion between  Health  and Finance professionals at the international level. It provided an avenue for the Finance agencies to better understand the critical  issues  on the  health  agenda and the health agencies to familiarize themselves with the processes required to include important health initiatives into the national budget.

In Saint Lucia like are countries in the region,  governments  are  managing stagnant and declining budgets, with inflation, debt,  with  an ageing  workforce, and working towards the implementation of UHC. It is necessary to allocate sustainable funding towards more cost-effective interventions to  ensure  that NCDs and mental health conditions are effectively addressed.

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