Raising awareness about NCDs in the Caribbean: HCC’s 2017-2021 strategic plan

It’s now become common knowledge that the Caribbean region has a major public health crisis in terms of growing rates of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. Many used to think that those disease were afflictions of primarily high-income countries.


As rates have skyrocketed in lower- and middle-income countries, we may need new ideas, new models, new theories to fully tackle these diseases. Thus, the next five years are critical in terms of what how the Caribbean deals with these long-standing and emerging health issues.

It is within this context that the Healthy Caribbean Coalition (HCC) released its 2017-2021 Strategic Plan. The strategic plan has five pillars: accountability, advocacy, capacity development, communication, and sustainability. The strategic plan guides the organization forward, as it has become a leader in the Caribbean public health sphere.

I am really impressed with the work that’s been going on at the HCC. They are working towards a healthy Caribbean by raising awareness of the role and effects of non-communicable diseases, and advocating for Caribbean-based solutions to public health issues.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll write a series of posts on the strategic plan’s pillars. Share your thoughts on the plan with us at our Facebook page.

And, if you haven’t already done so, definitely review the strategic plan at: http://www.healthycaribbean.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/HCC-Strategic-Plan_WEB.pdf


About the author

Diane B. Francis, PhD, is an Assistant Professor at Louisiana State University. Diane’s key research interests are centered in health communication, especially how to utilize traditional and new media for health promotion and disease prevention among diverse communities. A native of the Commonwealth of Dominica, she has a particular interest in promoting healthy behavioral changes among Caribbean individuals and communities, including Caribbean immigrants in the United States.

Note: These are my those of the author and not that of her institution.

Cancer survivorship in the Caribbean

There was a point in time when having a diagnosis of cancer meant death would soon come. The thought that someone would live years and years after after being treated for cancer and declared cancer free was unimaginable.

I was a young child, around eight years old, when I first learned that my paternal grandmother had had breast cancer. Everyone marveled at her strength, as someone who had beat cancer, a survivor. That my grandmother lived in Dominica also fed into the surprise that people expressed.

Many, Many years later, my grandmother, the cancer survivor, is still beating the odds.

Cancer survivorship, beyond that of my grandmother, is not something I was used to hearing much about growing up in the Caribbean. But with advanced medical care throughout the region, more and more people are living beyond the diagnosis of cancer.

Shirley Smith – Cancer Survivorship Testimonial:


According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are more than 32 million people worldwide who have lived five years beyond their cancer diagnosis. That number is expected to grow rapidly in the next few decades as the number of people diagnoses increases.

So, what does it mean to be a cancer survivor in the Caribbean? If you are a cancer survivor, share your experiences with us.

Do you have a family member or friend who was diagnosed with cancer? Share your stories as well.

We’d love to hear from you.

To learn more about the Inaugural Caribbean Cancer Survivorship Conference, go to: http://www.healthycaribbean.org/inaugural-caribbean-cancer-survivorship-conference/




Boy don’t touch me: Calypso music as social and behavior change communication

Calypsonians have long taken on public health and social issues. Way back when, in 1956, the Mighty Sparrow from Trinidad sang about prostitution that sprang up in the country in the wake of American military bases on the island. Jean and Dinah became an instant classic, still in rotation on many stations today.

In the more than 60 years since, calypsonians have taken on drugs, violence, child sexual abuse, youth unemployment, etc.

The 2017 carnival season was no exception.

In Dominica, one of the winning calypsos, “Hook in a Minor,” by Karessah, addressed child abuse. Using the double entendre popular in the art form, he talks of politicians deep in the minor and reminding them to “leave the minor alone.


In Trinidad, calypso legend Calypso Rose owned the carnival season with her instant feminist anthem, “Leave Me Alone.” The song focuses on women enjoying themselves during carnival without inference from men. The first words from the song: “Boy don’t touch me.”

This is something that many young women have uttered over the years during carnival. Now, there is a long to immortalize this phrase.


As reported in The Washington Post and later on Slate, Attillah Springer,  a Trinidadian writer and activist is quoted as saying, the song is “like a rallying cry for women who just want to be able to have the option of enjoying their Carnival — Carnival being that space of freedom.”

I’m interested in seeing what other topics future calypsonians take on.

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Trinidad moves to ban soft-drink sales in schools

The Health Minister for Trinidad and Tobago, Terrence  Deyalsingh, recently announced that the sale of soft drinks will be banned in schools beginning in April.

Like many caribbean countries, Trinidad and Tobacco has a relatively high rate of non-communicable diseases, including diabetes and obesity. Children as well as adults suffer from these diseases.


Social media comments to the news was mixed, with many people supporting the ban. One person mentioned that it’s a wise choice, and encouraging other islands to follow. However, some people expressed doubt about what the policy will actually achieve.

Many people are unaware of the links between drinking sugar-sweetened drinks and NCDs such as diabetes. However, research is increasingly showing that such policies to have an impact on health behaviors.

Hopefully, this will be the first step towards reducing NCDs among Trinidad youth.



Caribbean countries lag behind others in implementing pictorial cigarette warnings

A growing body of research indicate that large pictorial, usually graphic, warnings on cigarette packages have important public health benefits, including increasing awareness of the negative health effects of cigarette smoking.

Systematic reviews and meta-analyses of the impact of cigarette pack warnings have found strengthened warnings increased attention to warnings, recall of warnings, thinking about the health risks of smoking, motivation to quit smoking,  knowledge, and quitline calls. Strengthening warning also led to reductions in smoking behavior.

111108122400-fda-new-cigarette-warning-labels-horizontal-large-gallery.jpgTo date, 105 countries and jurisdictions worldwide now require such warnings. Seventy-seven  countries have implemented warnings on cigarette packs.

Cigarette pack warning implementation is outlined in Guidelines to implement Article 11 (packaging and labelling), adopted under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). The FCTC requires all signatories to “implement large, rotating health warnings on all tobacco product packaging and labelling.”

However, in the Caribbean only Jamaica (2014) and Suriname (2014) have taken steps to actually implement warnings in 2014. The Cayman Islands, which fall under United Kingdom jurisdiction, also moved towards implementation.

Three years ago, Trinidad and Tobago published  Tobacco Control Regulations, 2013, (published on January 10, 2014), which require 50% pictorial warnings 12 months after publication. However, implementation is delayed.

The remaining Caribbean countries, while signatories to the FCTC, have yet to seriously take steps to implementing much  of guidelines outlines in the Framework.

For more information see:

  • Noar, S.M., Francis, D.B., Bridges, C., Sontag, J.M., Ribisl, K.M., & Brewer, N.T. (2016). The impact of strengthening cigarette pack warnings: Systematic review of longitudinal observational studies. Social Science and Medicine, 164, 118-129. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2016.06.011
  • Noar, S.M., Francis, D.B., Bridges, C., Sontag, J.M., Brewer, N.T., & Ribisl, K.M. (2016). Effects of Strengthening Cigarette Pack Warnings on Attention and Message Processing: A Systematic Review. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, Advanced online publication. doi: 10.1177/1077699016674188
  • Noar, S.M., Hall, M.G., Francis, D.B., Ribisl, K.M., Pepper, J.K., & Brewer, N.T. (2015). Pictorial cigarette pack warnings: a meta-analysis of experimental studies. Tobacco Control, 25(3), 341-354. doi: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2014-051978