Health and Welfare

Caribbean Islands Table of Contents

The general health and welfare of all three British dependencies was good and was continuing to improve in the late 1980s. Each had adopted the goals of the Pan American Health Organization of good health for all by the year 2000, emphasizing preventive medical services and early maternal and child health care programs.

In the mid-1980s, mortality rates varied among the British dependencies. Montserrat had the highest death rate, 10.4 per 1,000 inhabitants, followed by Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands with 7.1 and 5.4, respectively. Interestingly, the British Virgin Islands had the highest infant mortality rate, 41 per 1,000 live births, followed by Anguilla and Montserrat with 26.7 and 21.6, respectively.

Programs of inoculation against diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus had succeeded in reaching at least 90 percent of the population on all the islands; vaccinations against poliomyelitis and measles reached a minimum of 75 percent of the targeted population. Anguilla and Montserrat reached over 95 percent of their respective populations with the polio vaccine. The incidence of infectious diseases was very low for all three dependencies; none had reported any cases of acquired immune deficiency syndrome as of May 1987.

Although Britain supplied funds for health care budgets, administration and health care delivery were the responsibility of the local governments. Montserrat, the British Virgin Islands, and Anguilla allocated approximately 13 percent, 11 percent, and 10 percent, respectively, of their annual budgets to health care and related services.

Health care in the British Virgin Islands was the responsibility of the minister of social services; administrative and technical supervision rested with the chief medical officer. The national health policy mandated free health services for the entire population and was achieved through an infrastructure that included the fifty-bed Peebles Hospital in Road Town and eight district health centers. In 1984 the islands had a total of six doctors, one dentist, and sixty nurses, midwives, and assistant nurses. In addition, there were three doctors who maintained a private practice and an eight-bed hospital.

Anguilla's health system was administered by the Ministry of Health, which directed all medical facilities on the island. In 1984 there was no specified national health plan, and there was a distinct lack of trained personnel. A twenty-four-bed hospital was the primary medical facility and was supported by four district health centers and a modern dental clinic; there were five physicians on the island.

Montserrat's health services were the responsibility of the Ministry of Education, Health, and Community Services; the permanent secretary in the ministry oversaw administration and was advised on technical matters by the chief medical officer. All community health services were free with the exception of certain laboratory tests. Montserrat was able to provide health care to all inhabitants by 1984. Major health problems were treated at the Glendon Hospital in Plymouth, which had sixty-seven beds, and community services were provided through a network of twelve district clinics. No village was farther than about three kilometers from a district clinic.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress