Speaking at the opening of the 20th Annual Cook Islands Health Conference 2018 at the National Auditorium yesterday, Brown said there was a need to provide opportunities to train, refresh and advance the skills and knowledge of medical practitioners, especially those in the outer islands outside of Rarotonga and Aitutaki.
She said the Cook Islands was committed to the principles of universal health coverage which means providing all Cook Islanders access to quality health care.
“This requires a whole government and community approach,” Brown said.
The three-day conference is attended by people involved in health in the Cook Islands and overseas.
The opening day was also attended by prime minister Henry Puna, his deputy Mark Brown, Infrastructure minister Robert Tapaitau, Culture minister George Maggie and former prime ministers and doctors Dr Joseph Williams and Dr Robert Woonton.
Rose Brown said from humble beginning 20 years ago at the Rarotonga Hospital kitchen, the conference had grown into one of the major platforms to discuss health issues affecting the country.
“This is the forum that has formed a platform for health excellence, allowing robust debates amongst our health colleagues to inform health priorities for the people of the Cook Islands.
“This is also seen as a vibrant learning environment that attracts our Cook Islands health professional and overseas colleagues.”
Reflecting on the theme of the conference, “Celebrating Knowledge”, Brown said the event would focus on a number of keys issues such as non-communicable diseases, research, mental health and family health (children, youth, men and women).
She said the theme also relayed the importance of reliable and timely information in policy decision making.
“Mental health and wellbeing is fundamental to our ability as humans to think and interact with each other, earn a living and enjoy life. It’s therefore vital to protect and promote the mental wellbeing of our people but also to address the needs with persons with mental illness,” Brown said.
“At the same time, we are facing emerging diseases and challenges and we need better disaster preparedness and response to counter the adverse effect of climate change.”
The conference will run until Friday.
A similar conference will be held in Aitutaki at the Vaipae Sports Community Centre on Monday and Tuesday next week.