Belize Central Prison to participate in International Scientific Conference

Belize Central Prison to participate in International Scientific Conference

The Belize Central Prison will be representing the country in April at the Epidemic Intelligence Services (EIS) Conference in Atlanta Georgia following its significant containment of the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, the prison’s medical officer, Dr Javier Novelo, submitted a research paper titled “Effectiveness of COVID-19 Surveillance System Implementation” to compete in the competition. And, two weeks ago, Novelo was informed that Belize’s submission on Field Epidemiology Training was selected from among 191 countries across the world. The 16-page academic study summarizes how the prison was able to limit the virus’s spread while utilizing minimal resources and assistance from inmates. Novelo explained how the study was done and said that Belize’s paper was the only one to be selected from the region.

Dr. Javier Novelo ,Medical Officer, Belize Central Prison: “A hundred and ninety one countries submitted papers and out of those hundred and ninety one only eight countries were accepted, eight papers were accepted Belize being one of the countries and one paper was accepted which is a paper done on COVID-19 in the prison and that was the paper that was accepted. Now it’s a lot of rehearsing and rehearsing for that presentation but it’s basically preparing to showcase your work, preparing to showcase what the prison has done. We successfully mitigated the COVID, the study was done from 2020 to 2022 and what was unique about paper is that we have an inmate based workforce, an inmate based work force at the medic center, because we have limited resources here in the prison we have inmates that help us work and that is why this paper is unique and that is why I believe it is one of the papers that they selected to present. The paper that is submitted it’s a summary, it’s an abstract which is roughly about three hundred and fifty words but the paper is a sixteen page report that was done, I started that in September of last year and ended in November I submitted the paper through a training that I am doing with collaboration – the Ministry of Health collaborates with the prison and it collaborated with COMISCA which is a community of public health ministries in the Caribbean they’re doing a training program for public officers and other individuals as myself here in Belize I am doing that training and through that training for epidemiology is how I got to submit the paper.”

Novelo added that Belize’s acceptance into the competition highlights the country’s humanitarian approach to rehabilitation and its focus on protecting all its citizens. 

Dr. Javier Novelo ,Medical Officer, Belize Central Prison: “I am very proud and honored that my work was accepted because it shows the work that we have been doing for years in the prison. We use inmates to help us do a lot of things here in the prison and even though many times the prison is not the best news that you see in the media there’s a lot of things that we do here with regards to rehabilitation, with regards to trying to train these inmates to have a better life when they come out of the prison and when I did this paper and submitted it I liked that it would eventually showcase to an international body, these are countries from all over the world that submit their papers and Belize which is a small country in the Caribbean won one of the papers so this makes me very proud and honored. Of course I got support from the management team of the prison, I got support from the Ministry of Health, we got support from several entities, PAHO, I don’t remember all but it’s a collaboration with all the entities that supported us that helped us mitigate the virus in the prison. The prison is like a little village. We have roughly 1,200 inmates, we have around 250 staff and here we have different illnesses. We have people with HIV, we have people with diabetes, we have people with asthma, we have people that I think I have a patient with cancer and these require proper and adequate healthcare. Now the heath center that we have which comprises of one doctor, we have some EMT staff some of which are inmates they provide healthcare and the supplies we get we get some support from the Ministry of Health from time to time we get some donations and the prison itself purchases supplies and medications to manage the healthcare provide to this population which includes the inmates and the staff. So the way we work at the prison is that we try to provide the best care but to a limit with the amount of medications and supplies that we have so treatments may be a little bit shorter as long as it fulfills the requirement of adequate treatment and that is how we try to manage. So what is unique about us is that during this entire COVID period we had no deaths recorded and we had no hospitalizations thankfully even though we have inmates with chronic conditions here in the prison.”

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