Caribbean College of Family Physicians conference report

Prepared by Pauline Williams-Green MD, Conference Chair

The Caribbean College of Family Physicians in collaboration with the Family Medicine Section of the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus hosted its 6th Triennial Pan-Caribbean Family Medicine Conference from February 6 – 8, 2015 in Kingston Jamaica, under the theme – “Family Physicians: Integrating Mental Health Care in Family Practice”

President Elect of WONCA, Professor Amanda Howe was present at the conference via a live teleconferencing link and also a pre-recorded video of her presentation; “The role of the Family Physician in Mental Health Care.” She illustrated how family physicians are called upon by families and members of the community to assist persons with mental disorders. Often family physicians are expected to coordinate the care of physical and mental illnesses. Routinely, family physicians must liaise with mental health officers and psychiatrists to achieve optimum care for their patients.

The Pan-American Health Organisation/ World Health Organisation was a major sponsor of the conference since training for family physicians is critical to the thrust by PAHO/WHO for the integration of mental health care into primary care services. Devora Kestel from PAHO and Maureen Irons-Morgan from the Jamaican Ministry of Health presented the case for the integration of mental health care into primary care services.

The three day conference focused on multiple aspects of the theme in order to highlight the critical role of family physicians in the community management of mental health conditions in the Caribbean. Family Physicians and psychiatrists conducted a panel discussion on drug abuse with the following topics:

1. Drug Abuse: The Jamaican Landscape;
2. The Management of Alcohol Abuse by the Family Physician;
3. Smoking Cessation - What can the Family Physician Do?
4. The biopsychosocial perspective of marijuana.

Another workshop looked at the ethical dilemmas encountered by the family physicians in caring for persons with mental illness.

The second day was devoted to research in family practice. A workshop on “Primary Care Research in Mental Health Conditions” was directed by Dr Rohan Maharaj, chair of the CCFP research sub-committee. This was followed by research presentations from across the Caribbean, Nigeria and Canada.

The launch of the CCFP young doctors’ movement (YDM) took place on the second day. The internet (Skype) was used to bring Dr Kyle Hoedebecke to the meeting and he introduced Polaris – the North American YDM to the audience.

Mental health problems of the elderly were presented by Professor of Public Health and Ageing, Denise Eldemire-Shearer. On the other end of the spectrum, Director of Child and Adolescent Health in the Ministry of Health, Dr Judith Leiba presented on Mental Health Issues in children.

The final day highlighted presentations on conducting a mental status examination; motivational interviewing and the clinical management of common mental health disorders such as depression and Schizophrenia.

Overall, the three days provided opportunities to reinforce current information on caring for persons with mental health conditions in the family practice setting. It also gave participants networking opportunities for the future. The conference organisers were pleased with use of the pre-recorded video for the keynote speaker, Professor Amanda Howe and the Skype conversation. In the future it is hoped that videoconferencing could be incorporated, to reduce the inconvenience of international travel.