With limited fresh water resources, significant pollution risks, and a high population density, Barbados’ water quality management and regulation constitutes a national public health priority for the Ministry of Health and Wellness.

Medical Officer of Health in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Dr. Ingrid Cumberbatch stated this today at the Water Quality Surveillance Training Workshop, at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dayrells Road, St. Michael.

Dr. Cumberbatch disclosed that Barbados was classified as the 15th most water scarce country in the world, and as such, she asserted that water quality surveillance must be a critical component of environmental health.

She reasoned that placing such emphasis on water quality was important, and the ministry was playing its role, through inspections by environmental health officers, with the principal aim being “to protect the public from waterborne diseases such as gastroenteritis and cholera”.

Speaking in the context of imminent social, economic and health threats posed to small island developing states like Barbados, Dr. Cumberbatch stated: “Investment in building resilience urgently needs to hold priority over investment in rebuilding.

“This philosophy, along with the national obligation to protect the health and well-being of all citizens, is ever more relevant in the context of the health threats posed by climate change and weather driven disasters.”

Dr. Cumberbatch pointed out that the established health risks caused by contaminated water, climate change and disaster were the driving force behind the ministry taking a frontal approach to building national adaptation and resilience capacity for the health sector.

She said one such approach will be to increase its routine water quality surveillance, and to assist this effort, they have decided to offer a refresher training course for environmental health officers in water quality surveillance.

The refresher course will equip the officers with a standardized methodology in water quality surveillance, and seek to raise public confidence in the public health systems, relative to drinking water.

Commending the ministry for conducting such an important course, PAHO Advisor for Non-Communicable Diseases and Mental Health, Dr. Patrice Lawrence-Williams, noted that this year’s World Water Day campaign theme was: Water, water everywhere, if only shared, which highlights the idea that we must all gather to ensure that everyone has access to this essential resource for health and life.

Dr. Lawrence-Williams emphasized: “Not only should we promote access to water, but access to clean water.  The quality of drinking water is a powerful environmental determinant of health.   Assurance of drinking water quality has been a pillar of primary prevention for more than 150 years, and continues to be the foundation for the prevention and control of waterborne diseases.”

The three-day training course will cover such topics as: What is Water Quality Surveillance Systems and Why is it Needed; Water Quality and the Health Services Act; Water Quality and the World Health Organization Guidelines; Sampling Protocols and Laboratory Procedures; Investigative Procedures and Protocols; and Public Health Hazard Identification.