CARPHA Trains 29 Jamaicans to strengthen National Emergency Response and Biosecurity Systems

Public health aims to improve the health of the entire population from a global level through communities, families and individuals. This is done through the promotion of healthy lifestyles, researching diseases and injury prevention, and the control of infectious diseases like measles, dengue and the “flu”. Laboratories play a major role in detecting and monitoring all types of diseases; therefore, it is very important to ensure that individuals working in these areas are safe. This concept is referred to as Biosafety. This forms a core component of national infection control and health security systems to ensure laboratories across sectors are operating in accordance with best practices within the national network.

To this end, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Wellness facilitated a five-day (27-31 May 2019) workshop aimed at strengthening Jamaica’s national laboratory systems to operate using international standards, as well as prepare and respond to emergency/outbreak situations.

The workshop was sponsored under an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Project to strengthen regional health security in the Caribbean. During her opening remarks, Dr. Nicole Dawkins, Director, Emergency Disaster Management and Special Services, highlighted the timeliness and the importance of the activity in expanding the number of trained individuals within the healthcare system in accordance with the International Health Regulations.

Mrs. Sacha Wallace-Sankarsingh, Biorisk Manager and main facilitator from CARPHA reminded participants that, “your role in the laboratory is key to maintaining gains made in public health such as the elimination of measles in the Caribbean, and being able to respond appropriately and quickly is key to maintaining national health security.” During a guest lecture, the CARICOM UNSCR 1540 Representative spoke about the importance of public health and public safety.

Twenty-nine laboratory professionals from public, private, medical, veterinary and university settings across Jamaica benefitted through exposure to properly handling infectious materials and improving their operational practices. The two workshops conducted were: Infectious Substances Shipping Training (2 days) and Biosafety and Biosecurity Practices for Laboratory (3 days).

Successful participants were certified for a period of two years to handle and package Category A Infectious Substances and were also trained to incorporate the culture of safety, risk assessment, and proper waste management practices using a train-the-trainer approach. These new trainers are expected to replicate similar sessions in their respective institutions and form part of the national network of biosafety professionals.

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