Wendy-Ann Wattie, Ministry of Health, Trinidad and Tobago
Alcohol is the most widely used, accessible drug in Trinidad and Tobago. It is a risk factor for many non-communicable diseases (NCDs), but is also associated with a myriad of other health and social problems, including the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, violence, accidents, injuries and road fatalities. A group from T&T, comprised of five country participants from the Ministry of Health and the University of the West Indies, recently convened at Yale for the GHLI Forum for Change to discuss the issue of alcohol use and abuse. While we had planned to discuss the relationship between alcohol and NCDs, the team agreed that the damaging impact of alcohol consumption superseded exclusive focus on NCDs and that a more comprehensive strategy was necessary to tackle this problem.
We found the Forum to be a creative, thought-provoking environment at which we could collaborate with not only Yale faculty but also with our Eastern Caribbean colleagues in attendance focusing on their own specific NCD issues. Dr. Rohan Maharaj, principal investigator, ECHORN: Trinidad and Tobago, helped our group involve senior officials and successfully motivate the team. Our strategy discussions and development evolved from early conversations on the complimentary role of followers to leaders and embracing and tackling implementation challenges; to problem solving tactics such as identifying a champion and developing a National Policy on Alcohol, that we hope to implement over the next few months/years.
There were a few unforeseen events that we had to overcome, like skyping our absent T&T countryman to maximize participation benefits and getting prompt health care for our fallen Barbados counterpart, but it was met with an energetic and effective response. After dinners with faculty and staff and an outing at a local orchard, there were clear personal and familial contributions of GHLI and ECHORN members that signaled their humility, grace, sincerity and infectious commitment to achieving the shared purpose of global health.