Curaçao and other islands require urgent health investigation

WILLEMSTAD – A recently released reconnaissance report titled 'Programming Health Research in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands' sheds crucial light on the health challenges facing the six Caribbean islands. 

Conducted by organizations including Fundashon Prevenshon, the Athena Institute of the Vrije Universiteit, and the Stichting Expertisecentrum Preventie, the report underscores the need for targeted health interventions and research. 

The report indicates that specific attention is required for issues such as mental health, chronic diseases, sexual health, and healthcare organization on the islands. Significant disparities in health outcomes and access to healthcare between the islands highlight the urgency for focused interventions and research. 

The research emphasizes the need to not only consider the medical aspects of illness but to focus on social determinants such as poverty and education, as well as lifestyle factors contributing to health issues on the islands. Strengthening primary healthcare, which also includes preventive measures, is deemed a priority. 

Soraya Verstraeten highlights health disparities in the Caribbean 

"The life expectancy gap between residents of the Netherlands and the islands is growing, mainly due to avoidable causes," explains project leader Soraya Verstraeten. She emphasizes that cancer screenings on Curaçao and the other islands lag behind those in the Netherlands, indicating a significant health disparity. 

Verstraeten critically points out that the islands face a 'low resource setting,' resulting in healthcare performance falling behind that of the Netherlands. Shortages of medicines and materials, lack of professional development, and a fragmented healthcare infrastructure are highlighted as significant challenges. 

Following the constitutional reform, the Leeward Islands of Aruba, Curaçao, and Bonaire received reduced healthcare budgets, while the costs of medicines and care increased. "Budget cuts to government departments and healthcare institutions have led to a decrease in resources for essential health services," says Verstraeten. 

Subsidy Issues 

Verstraeten criticizes the complex and often unattainable subsidy application procedures for the islands. She advocates for adapting these procedures to the local situation, as the current approach is based on the Dutch context and is often unsuitable for the Caribbean islands. 

The exploration led by Verstraeten's team aims to identify the key health issues on the islands and engage stakeholders. "It's about having a dialogue and hearing the silent voices so that everyone is involved in strengthening healthcare," says Verstraeten. 

Depth interviews and questionnaires reveal a strong need for improvements in chronic conditions, mental health, and healthcare organization on the islands. 

Verstraeten underscores the importance of stronger collaboration within the Kingdom to improve health on the islands. "It is crucial that we do not lose sight of the situation on the islands and work together to achieve real improvements," she concludes.