HCC COVID-19 Communication Strategy
The Healthy Caribbean Coalition (HCC) is committed to advocating for environments which prevent NCDs, and to supporting improved quality of life for those living with NCDs.
The HCC COVID-19 communication strategy is aimed at our broad stakeholder audience, with the primary target group being HCC member civil society organisations (CSOs) representing people living with NCDs (PLWNCDs) and vulnerable populations such as older persons and youth. The secondary audience will consist of other key actors in the Caribbean NCD response.
Our 5 Objectives are listed below. Please click on each one for more information and useful resources.
Increasing knowledge about COVID-19 and NCDs: Collating and disseminating research on the linkages between COVID-19 and NCDs.
Evidence from countries hardest hit by COVID-19 shows that older persons and those with underlying conditions such as NCDs are most vulnerable.
Global data emerging from countries in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrate stark and frightening vulnerabilities for older persons and people living with chronic NCDs such as diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension. The Caribbean has some of the highest levels of NCDs globally and NCDs are the leading causes of death. Eight out of every ten people in the Caribbean die from an NCD and 40% of these deaths occur prematurely, in persons under 70 years of age. Hypertension is the leading risk factor for death, and diabetes prevalence is double the average global rate. According to surveys conducted in 12 Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries, 10% to 25% of adults have diabetes, and 20% to over 50% suffer from high blood pressure.
People within the NCD community are keen to better understand the links between NCDs and COVID-19, and identify strategies to protect this at-risk population.
The HCC will collate information on the linkages between NCDs and COVID-19 and share with its members and wider audiences using various platforms, including social media.
The following links are provided to help and guide persons living with NCDs.
- WHO: COVID-19 and NCDs Information Note
- World Heart Federation (WHF): Information on the link between COVID-19 and CVD
- American Heart Association (AHA): Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources
- AHA: What do we know about congenital heart disease and coronavirus?
- International Diabetes Federation (IDF): COVID-19 and diabetes
- Union for International Cancer Control's (UICC): Cancer and Coronavirus: coping with a double challenge
- National Cancer Institute: Coronavirus: What People with Cancer Should Know
- Links Community: Novel Coronavirus, a priority for the NCD community too!
- Alzheimer's Disease International: Advice and support during COVID-19
Promoting access to, and consumption of, healthy foods and beverages: Healthy diets for strong immune systems.
The COVID-19 pandemic is set to create significant food insecurity in the region. Access to fresh fruits and vegetables is likely to become challenging for entire communities, with acute shortages in certain settings (countries with limited food sovereignty) and among certain sub-populations (groups with limited financial resources). As communities prepare for protracted periods of lockdown, it is likely that diets will shift to consumption of more processed, non-perishable foods, especially with widespread reduction or loss of incomes. Lack of access to nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables, coupled with overconsumption of energy-dense, nutrient-poor fast foods and processed foods, threaten to compromise already weakened immune systems and place PLWNCDs at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 and increasing the likelihood of poor health outcomes. Additionally, in the longer term, these diets will contribute to an increased NCD burden.
Regional food insecurity is exacerbated by the fact that the Caribbean is a net importer of food. Half of CARICOM countries import 80% of what they consume and a significant proportion of this falls into the category of processed and ultra-processed foods, which are known to increase the risk of NCDs. Already weak regional agricultural industries are vulnerable to COVID-19, raising serious doubts about the region’s ability to be self-sustainable at this critical time.
The COVID-19 crisis has also created a space for the food and beverage industry to provide increased access to food. We must encourage the food and beverage sector to see this as an opportunity for innovation and social responsibility in providing healthy nutritious food, rather one for offloading ultra-processed products on entire communities.
Ensuring access to safe nutritious food for PLWNCDs and vulnerable populations such as older persons and youth will be critical. This will mean implementing policies which focus not only on preventing food insecurity but on promoting the production and consumption of healthy food.
The HCC will advocate for and encourage policy coherence and coordinated actions across sectors to enhance food security and food sovereignty.
Promoting access to essential medicines and treatments for PLWNCDs: Continuity of life-saving NCD medication/treatments.
People living with NCDs such as diabetes and hypertension take daily life-saving medication to manage their conditions, and those with cancer may be receiving active chemotherapy or intensive radiotherapy. PLWNCDs will need to ensure that they have enough medicines for full adherence through national shutdowns and mandatory curfews. This means filling prescriptions through public or private pharmacies, ideally for three months. Ongoing life-saving treatments such as chemotherapy and dialysis may be interrupted in order to protect patients from COVID-19 infection in hospital-based settings or to deploy health care workers to assist with the coronavirus response.
The HCC will advocate for and encourage mechanisms to ensure that medications and treatment are available and accessible through the public and private sectors, or via civil society organisations.
Promoting good mental and physical health: Healthy minds and healthy bodies.
The physical distancing and isolation measures being implemented by governments to slow the progression of COVID-19, protect health systems, and save lives, combined with wide dissemination of misinformation and myths about the disease, are giving rise to increased levels of stress, fear, anxiety, and loneliness. Individuals and family units are being faced with situations and ways of living which they have not known in their lifetimes. School and workplace closures, immobility, restricted ability to engage in physical activity, financial insecurity, illness and loss of life, combined with uncertainty about when the measures will end, threaten to profoundly impact the mental health of entire societies, from children to older persons. Physical activity is not only an important factor for NCD prevention and control and immune system strengthening, but also for mental health, and limited spaces and opportunities for such activity further exacerbate the situation.
With lay-offs and business closures comes financial stress, and governments will need to encourage employers to facilitate teleworking where possible, and to work with their citizens to implement policies which create financial safety nets. Children’s education and development must continue, and national authorities will need to ensure that online schooling platforms are put into place to create as normal a learning environment as possible for children.
For those on the frontlines of this crisis, including health care and other essential services workers, as well as the most vulnerable, including older persons and PLWNCDs, governments will need to implement policies which create safety nets and protect these populations from COVID-19 infection. Strong measures which limit the introduction of COVID-19 into countries and reduce in-country transmission are the best strategies to create confidence and comfort in citizens that all is being done to slow local epidemics and reduce the loss of lives, especially in our resource-limited and vulnerable settings. In addition, national evidence-based social media campaigns to educate the public about the need to maintain mental and physical health, refute misinformation and myths, and provide guidance on specific coping strategies, will be critical.
The HCC will advocate for and encourage multi-sectoral strategies to facilitate and enable the maintenance of physical and mental health at individual and community levels.
Physical distancing and isolation measures, the closure of schools and workplaces, are particularly challenging us - as they affect what we love to do, where we want to be, and who we want to be with. It is absolutely natural for each of us to feel stress, anxiety, fear and loneliness during this time.
The following links are provided to help and guide us all through these difficult times.
Engaging young people as key players in the COVID-19 response: Empowering young people as messengers and protectors.
Although, to date, the risk of COVID-19 infection among young people is relatively low, data have shown they may largely be asymptomatic vectors of infection, unknowingly transmitting the virus to the more vulnerable. In addition, young people—adolescents and children—may be experiencing confusion, fear, and anxiety about the future and what it holds for their loved ones. It will be important to engage this group to ensure that messages around social distancing and containment reach them, and to give them the tools to cope with mental health issues they may face during this time of uncertainty.
The HCC will advocate for and encourage consultation with young people in planning and disseminating messages that target them, taking advantage of its established youth advocates and youth initiatives.
Below are some more COVID-19 related resources
Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases, COVID-19 is a new strain of Coronavirus.
Most people recover from coronavirus quickly after a few days' rest. For some people, it can be more severe and, in rare cases, life-threatening.
The symptoms are similar to other illnesses that are much more common, such as cold and flu:
- a cough
- a high temperature
- shortness of breath
Persons who may be especially vulnerable to COVID-19 are:
- Older Adults.
- Persons who have a serious underlying health condition, including non-comunicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart disease, diabetes or lung disease.
Public Information Videos
American Heart Association
We all have a role to play in stopping its spread and protecting the health of our communities, the situation is evolving rapidly and it is important to separate fact from fiction, get your information from a reliable source and listen to the advice given by Governments and Ministries of Health.
Click on the button below to see a list of links to Health Organisation websites and information sources of Regional Governments.
- Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA)
- Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO)
- Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS)
- World Health Organisation (WHO)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- National Institutes of Health (NIH)
- NCD Alliance (NCDA)
- Anguilla: The Government of Anguilla | Government of Anguilla Facebook page
- Antigua and Barbuda: Government Information Service | The Government Information Service Facebook page
- Bahamas: Ministry of Health | Bahamas Information Service Facebook page
- Barbados: Government Information Service (GIS) | Gov.bb | Government Information Service Facebook page
- Belize: Government of Belize Press Office Facebook page
- Bermuda: Government of Bermuda | The Government of Bermuda Facebook page
- Dominica: Government of Dominica Information Service Facebook page
- Grenada: Ministry of Health | Government Information Service of Grenada Facebook page | Ministry of Health Grenada Facebook page
- Guyana: Ministry of the Presidency | Ministry of the Presidency Facebook page
- Jamaica: Ministry of Health and Wellness | Jamaica information Service | Jamaica Information Service Facebook page
- Montserrat: Government of Montserrat | Government Information Unit Montserrat Facebook page
- St. Kitts and Nevis: St Kitts & Nevis Information Services | St.Kitts & Nevis Information Service (SKNIS) Facebook page
- St Vincent and the Grenadines: Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines
- Trinidad and Tobago: Office of the Prime Minister Republic of Trinidad and Tobago | Ministry of Communications Trinidad and Tobago Facebook page
- Turks and Caicos: The Government of the Turks & Caicos Islands | Turks & Caicos Islands Government Facebook page
- World Heart Federation (WHF)
- International Diabetes Federation (IDF)
- Union for International Cancer Control's (UICC)
- WHO: Mental Health Considerations during COVID-19 Outbreak
- UNICEF: How teenagers can protect their mental health during coronavirus
- The Union a Century of Leadership in Lung Health
HCC Open Letter to CARICOM Heads of State and Government Calling for Urgent Action to Protect Those Living With NCDs From COVID-19
March 27, 2020
Dear CARICOM Heads of State and Government,
I write on behalf of the Board of Directors, members, volunteers, and technical staff of the Healthy Caribbean Coalition (HCC) at this time of crisis—the COVID-19 pandemic—firstly, to represent and re-emphasise the particular vulnerability of those living with non-communicable diseases (NCDs), especially older persons, and to highlight the need for proactive responses to the threat posed by the pandemic to this group, including provision for their care and treatment; secondly, to recognise and commend the significant efforts being made by you, the leaders of your respective countries, in your response to the pandemic, and to offer the support of the NCD civil society movement; and thirdly, to encourage consideration, even at this early stage, of the possible legacy of this pandemic, especially as it relates to addressing the NCD epidemic.
NCDs and COVID-19
It is estimated that in most Caribbean countries 4 out of every 10 adults has one or more NCDs. Most of the global data from the pandemic shows that NCDs were the most common co-morbidities of COVID-19 in the older age group with the highest mortality. The Caribbean, with its high prevalence of NCDs and many elderly people, represents a region exceedingly vulnerable to the more serious complications of the pandemic.
Given the significant number of Caribbean people living with NCDs (PLWNCDs), we are asking CARICOM governments to implement the following population-based measures, which will safeguard both people living with NCDs and the general population, including health care workers. These include:
- the closure of all borders to all cruises and flights, with the exception of flights with returning residents, essential medical specialists, nurses, and other categories of health and health-related professionals;
- the closure of non-essential businesses and the implementation of curfews for non-essential workers and other members of society;
- the prohibition of all social gatherings;
- the implementation of strong quarantine and isolation measures;
- promoting and enforcing disinfection protocols of public spaces such as, although not limited to, grocery stores, pharmacies, communal residences, public transit, and airports;
- promoting proper hand and respiratory hygiene;
- expansion of testing to identify and track emerging local transmission;
- institution of mechanisms to ensure that all PLWNCDs have access to at least 3 months’ supply of essential medicines from public and private pharmacies, supported by a public advisory to stockpile these medications;
- implementation of measures to ensure access to healthy foods; and
- activation of social protection packages to protect citizens from financial hardship.
Multi-sectoral response to COVID-19
We are conscious that many of these steps have already been taken by one or more countries in the region. We in civil society are of the view that more needs to be done to safeguard the health of PLWNCDs, and we are prepared to assist in what must be a multi-sectoral, whole-of-society response. The HCC, with its 100+ civil society organisation members across the region, has strong patient networks and communication platforms, which can be leveraged to ensure, as much as possible, that no one is left behind. In the coming weeks and months, in support of national and regional responses, the HCC will focus our education and advocacy on the following five key areas: increasing knowledge about COVID-19 and NCDs; promoting access to and consumption of healthy foods; promoting access to essential medicines for PLWNCDs; promoting good mental and physical health; and engaging young people.
NCD legacy of COVID-19
Finally, Honourable Heads of State and Government, the inter-relationship between pandemics such as COVID-19 and socio-economic development is readily demonstrated by the acute and dramatic adverse health and economic outcomes. The mutually adverse relationship between NCDs, which account for 8 out of 10 deaths regionally, and their antecedents and associations, such as climate change, social and economic determinants, and unhealthy eating, among others, is less obvious, but no less important.
We therefore recommend that, as a legacy of COVID-19, health be given priority in all policies, with true policy coherence among sectors leading to nutrition and physical activity policies for healthier schools; fiscal policies that make the healthy option the more affordable option; agriculture and trade policies that prioritise food security and enable Caribbean people to eat what they grow, in preference to unhealthy imported foods, fast foods, or quick-serving foods; and policies that facilitate investment and support for sustainable efforts to mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis.
In 2007, the Caribbean showed global leadership when you signed the Declaration of Port of Spain: “Uniting to Stop the Epidemic of Chronic NCDs”, and the world listened. If ever there were a time to urgently prioritise the needs of people living with NCDs, that time is now. We urge you to act, and we pledge our support.
- Sir Trevor Hassell and the Board of Directors of the Healthy Caribbean Coalition and our 100+ members on behalf of the millions of Caribbean nationals living with and affected by NCDs.
Given the ongoing regional and global developments with the Coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic we wanted to share that HCC is taking a number of precautionary measures to protect our personnel while minimising and adapting critical organisational activities including implementation of our grants.
The regional situation is evolving rapidly and we are entering a period of uncertainty. We are all aware that those living with NCDs are particularly vulnerable to Covid-19. With the high burden of NCDs in the Caribbean we will need to make every effort to protect this vulnerable group.NCDs in the Caribbean
- 8 out of every 10 people in the Caribbean die from an NCD
- 40% of NCD deaths occur prematurely, in those under 70, and are potentially preventable.
- Heart attacks, stroke, diabetes and cancers are the leading causes of premature death.
- Hypertension is the leading risk factor for death.
- Diabetes prevalence is double global rates.
- According to surveys conducted in 12 CARICOM countries:
- 10 to 25% of adults have diabetes; and
- 20% to over 50% suffer from high blood pressure.
HCC has shared some key messages for our membership re COVID-19 and NCDs. Our global partners are continuing to develop important guidance for this sub population. We will use our various communication channels to share information and guidance for people living with and affected by NCDs.
Please follow all guidance from WHO/PAHO and your health experts around social distancing and personal hygiene and urge your membership to do the same.
We must do everything in our power to #flattenthecurve and allow our health systems to function effectively and minimise death.
On Behalf of the President, Executive Director, Directors and Staff of the HCC.