Dr. Merceline Dahl-Regis made history Wednesday becoming the first Bahamian to receive the prestigious Pan-American Health Organization’s (PAHO) ‘Public Heath Hero Award of the Americas’ at an award ceremony at Government House.
Considered by many a public health pioneer, Dr. Dahl-Regis is locally and regionally recognized for her work in advancing disease elimination through immunization, over many years.
“It is a matter of great pride that through the technical expertise of Dr. Merceline Dahl-Regis, The Bahamas has been able to make significant contributions to this work of PAHO in interventions associated with efforts to eliminate vaccine-preventable diseases.” Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said.
Dr. Minnis commended Dr. Dahl-Regis on the role she played in the great strides made in Bahamian health care and said, the observance provides the opportunity for the country to reflect on its post-independence journey – with respect to health care – as it nears its 45th year of independence.
“The treatment of medical conditions related to chronic non-communicable diseases (CNCDs) requires public funding which could be allocated to other priority areas of health care delivery. CNCDs have implications for the productivity of the workforce due to illness and disability – all contributing to the undermining of our country’s potential for further economic growth and national development.”
Dr. Minnis said just as his government is committed to sustaining the gains in immunization coverage against communicable diseases, it is also committed to further reducing the need for hospitalization as a result of complications associated with CNCDs.
The Ministry of Health recently announced initiatives to further promote healthier food choices and combat sedentary lifestyles. It is emphasizing the message of prevention and anticipates that in the long-term, these initiatives will enable more Bahamians to lead healthier and longer lives.
“We regard this as a war against CNCDs, including the risk factor of obesity as one that we can win,” he said.
“It is not however, one to be fought exclusively by the Ministry of Health.”
The government’s vision, he said, includes an emphasis on personal responsibility and a variety of social and health policies geared toward directing choices to avoid ill health and obesity.
The prime minister expressed “deep appreciation” to PAHO for its ongoing support in numerous aspects of public health programming and policy.
PAHO, which serves as the regional office of the World Health Organization (WHO), is the oldest public health organization in the world.
“The technical assistance it provides to its member states is noteworthy in a region where most of its members are categorized as developing economies,” he said.