CARPHA Conference Tackles Violence Through Research and Evidence

May 3rd, 2024

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Honourable Philip J. Pierre, Prime Minister of Saint Lucia

Violence plagues the Region and represents a huge burden on health systems and major economic costs to society. Violence as a public health issue affects physical, mental, sexual and even reproductive health.

For this reason, “Violence in the Caribbean: A Public Health Crisis” was chosen as the theme for Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) Annual Health Research Conference this year. The Conference presented an opportunity to address this public health concern and provide scientific evidence and epidemiological data that will demonstrate the nature of the violence; and how health systems can help to prevent and respond to violence as part of a multisectoral response.

The Conference, now in its 68th year was hosted in collaboration with the Government of Saint Lucia, through the Ministry of Health, Wellness and Elderly Affairs.

Honourable Philip J. Pierre, Prime Minister of Saint Lucia in his feature address at the Opening of the Conference “welcomed the research focus of this conference because it will help to fill some of the gaps in our understanding of both the drivers of crime and violence, as well as their public health impacts, at an individual and community level.”

Speaking to over 300 attendees, he added “This scourge has all the characteristics of an epidemic. Based on the statistics from across our region, it could rightly be described as a public health crisis. Many factors are contributing to its spread. Poverty, lack of access to resources, inequitable distribution of the benefits of development, declining family values, and youth unemployment are among the causes that are frequently cited. Enabling the spread of this virus is the rapid emergence of a gang culture, that seems to have no age limit.

The Prime Minister further stated “Adopting a public health approach to public security will require huge investments in capacity building, both in terms of equipment and training of frontline personnel. Ideally, we will need a comprehensive assessment of the training needs for the adoption of a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach to crime prevention and control. I believe all Caribbean Governments would benefit from a targeted and sustained action research agenda, that provides real-time data on trends and dynamics of violent crime in various hot spots.”

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Dr. Joy St. John, Executive Director of CARPHA.

In her opening remarks Executive Director of CARPHA Dr. Joy St. John said, “This year’s theme sends a powerful message. We acknowledge that despite the idyllic image of the Caribbean as a place of peace and relaxation, there is a harsh reality of violence that affects our region.”

She added “The fact that CARPHA chose this theme is a signal of our commitment to tackling this issue in a systematic fashion through highlighting the facts found through research and evidence. CARPHA is not afraid to tackle this head-on. We walked the talk of public health and are viewing this issue through multi sectoral lenses, the security challenge, the law enforcement realities, the undermining of socioeconomic status as well as the harm to human health causing a public health crisis demanding priority and intervention.”

The opening of the conference was followed by a Panel Discussion: Aiming for Change: Firearms and Public Health Intersections, which commenced with a keynote address by Dr. The Honourable Terrence Drew, Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis.

The Annual Health Research Conference took place from 25 to 27 April 2024 at the Royalton Saint Lucia Conference Centre. The Conference afforded delegates to attend over 45 oral presentations, view more than 55 poster presentations, and network with exhibitors from Saint Lucia and the Region.
Over the 2 and a half days the conference delivered featured lectures:

  • The Health Services contribution to a 50% reduction in homicides in the Caribbean by 2030 by Dr. Elizabeth Ward;
  • Gun Violence in the Caribbean: A focus on guns and bullets by Professor Stephen Hargarten (virtual presentation); and
  • Reflecting on Criminal Gang Findings and the Prospect for Change by Mr. Tarik Weekes
    The Conference was attended by Chief Medical Officers, researchers, physicians, nurses, law enforcement officials, and academia from across the Caribbean Region, Latin America, North America and Europe.

A series of events, including Town Hall Meeting on Youth and Violence; Training in Monitoring and Evaluation and Data Appreciation; and meetings and training on vector-borne diseases took place leading up to the conference. A meeting of the CARICOM Chief Medical Officers was hosted ahead of the conference.

A highpoint of the Conference is the Awards Banquet at which accomplished researchers are presented with a prestigious award honouring their contributions to science.

This year awards were presented to

  • Dr. Elizabeth Ward – recognised for her renowned work in the field of Violence and Mitigation “Distinguished Service for Public Health Approach to Violence and Mitigation”
  • Dr. Elizabeth Mandeville received the Donald Simeon Award for the Best Student Paper
  • Dr. Jihana Mottley received the David Picou Young Researcher Award
  • 1st Place Poster Winner Ms. Bibi Ally-Charles
  • 2nd Place Poster Winner Ms. Angelique Wilson-Parkinson

More information about the 2024 conference can be found at