Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
The Health in the Americas+ country profiles are based on the interagency indicators available as of the dates referenced. The sources are referenced in this table. In some cases, the values of the indicators may differ from the most recent data available in the country.
Environmental and social determinants of health
In 2000 the total population of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines was 113 813 inhabitants; by 2023 this figure had risen to 103 698, representing a 8.9% decrease. Regarding the country’s demographic profile, in 2023 people over 65 years of age accounted for 11% of the total population, an increase of 3.9 percentage points compared to the year 2000. In 2023, there were 96.7 women per 100 men and 50.6 older people (65 years or older) per 100 children under 15 years of age, as can be seen in the country’s population pyramids, distributed by age group and sex (Figure 1). Considering the population between 15 and 64 years of age to be potentially active (i.e., potential participants in the labor force), this group represented 67.3% of the total population of the country in 2023 (69 815 people). When we add these figures to the potentially passive population (22 505 under 15 years of age and 11 379 over 65 years of age), the result is a dependency ratio of 48.5 potentially passive people per 100 potentially active people. This ratio was 63.0 in 2000.
Life expectancy at birth in 2023 was 70.3 years, lower than the average for the Region of the Americas and 1.1 years higher that in 2000.
Figure 1. Population pyramids, years 2000 and 2023
In 2017, the average number of years of schooling in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines was 10.8 years, The unemployment rate in 2022 was 19%. Disaggregated by sex, the rate was 18.3% for women and 19.5% for men.
During the period 2000-2021, the country improved its score on the Human Development Index, with an increase of 10% (from a score of 0.683 to a score of 0.751); during the same period, the index rose 13.5% internationally and 9.4% in Latin America (Figure 2).
Figure 2. Human Development Index in the Region of the Americas, 2021
In 2020, public expenditure on health accounted for 3.26% of gross domestic product (GDP) (Figure 3) and 9.68% of total public expenditure, while out-of-pocket spending on health accounted for 26.53% of total health expenditure.
Figure 3. Public expenditure on health as a percentage of gross domestic product in the Region of the Americas, 2019
In 2021, 84.9% of the population had an internet connection, representing a considerable increase from 2000, when 3.2% of the population had an internet connection.
Maternal and child health
Between 2000 and 2021, infant mortality in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines decreased from 15.7 to 12.49 deaths per 1000 live births, a decrease of 20.4% (Figure 4). The percentage of low-weight births (less than 2500 g) increased from 4.8% to 8.0% between 2005 and 2015.
Regarding the immunization strategy, measles vaccination coverage was 96.0% in 2021.
The maternal mortality ratio for 2020 was estimated at 61.8 deaths per 100 000 live births, a reduction of 19.1% from the estimated value for 2000 (Figure 5). In relation to fertility, it is estimated that in 2023 women had an average of 1.8 children throughout their reproductive lives. In the specific case of adolescent fertility, there was a 41.3% decrease, from 77.1 live births per 1000 women aged 15 to 19 years in 2000 to 45.2 in 2023. In 2021, 99.0% of births were attended by skilled birth personnel.
Figure 4. Infant mortality per 1000 live births, 1995–2020
Figure 5. Maternal mortality per 1000 live births, 2000–2020
In 2021, there were 5 new cases of tuberculosis per 100 000 population in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. In 2019, the overall tuberculosis mortality rate (age-adjusted and per 100 000 population) was 1.4 (< 1 in women and 2.7 in men).
In 2021, the estimated human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection incidence rate (new diagnoses) was 33.5 per 100 000 population. The age-adjusted mortality rate for HIV was 16 per 100 000 population in 2019. It should be noted that during the 2000-2019 period this indicator decreased by 63.3%.
Noncommunicable diseases and risk factors
In Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the prevalence of overweight and obesity among people aged 15 and older was 55% in 2016.
Also in 2016, 46.1% of the population reported insufficient physical activity.
In 2015, the reported prevalence of arterial hypertension (high blood pressure) among people aged 18 years or older was 23.3%, a decrease of 2.4 percentage points compared to 2000 (25.7%). The prevalence of diabetes mellitus, which stood at 8.2% in 2000, increased to 10.6% in 2014.
In 2019, the adjusted rate of potentially avoidable premature mortality in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines was 298 deaths per 100 000 population, a decrease of 23.5% from a rate of 389.4 in 2000. This meant that, in 2019, the rate in the country was 31.5% higher than the average rate reported for the Region of the Americas as a whole. Among potentially avoidable premature mortality, the rate for preventable causes was 160.3 per 100 000 population in 2019, which is 16.9% higher than the regional average rate; and the rate for treatable causes was 137.7 per 100 000 population, above the regional average of 89.6.
The overall age-adjusted mortality rate was 6.9 per 1 000 population in 2019, a decrease of 20.7% compared to 2000 (8.7 deaths per 1 000 population).
When deaths are categorized into three main groups, it is observed that, in 2019, the age-adjusted mortality rate from communicable diseases was 94.2 per 100 000 population (105.1 per 100 000 in men and 82.5 per 100 000 in women), while the age-adjusted mortality rate from noncommunicable diseases was 537.4 per 100 000 population (574.6 per 100 000 in men and 498.8 per 100 000 in women). The rate of age-adjusted mortality from external causes was 62.7 per 100 000 population (100.5 per 100 000 in men and 23.8 per 100 000 in women), including road traffic accidents (7.1 per 100 000 population), homicides (28.6 per 100 000 population), and suicides (1 per 100 000 population). In 2000, the percentage distribution of causes was 76.7% % for noncommunicable diseases, 17.2% % for communicable diseases, and 6.1% for external causes; in 2019, the percentages were 79.1%, 13.1%, and 7.8%, respectively (Figure 5).
Figure 5. Proportional mortality in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, 2000 and 2019
Regarding cancer mortality from tumors, in 2019, the adjusted mortality rate from prostate cancer was 49.4 per 100 000 men; lung cancer, 7.9 per 100 000; and colorectal cancer, 10.4 per 100 000. In women, these values were 30.6 deaths per 100 000 for breast cancer, 6.5 per 100 000 for lung cancer, and 8.5 per 100 000 for colorectal cancer.
The health situation and the COVID-19 pandemic
In 2020, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines there were a total of 32 cases of COVID-19 in 2020, corresponding to a rate of 672 cases per million population. In 2021 there were 2 967 identified cases, equivalent to 62 285 cases per million population. In the year of 2022 were reported 3 542 cases. In 2020, there were no deaths directly caused by COVID-19 in people diagnosed with the disease; in 2021, 28 deaths were reported, or 588 per million. In 2022 46 deaths are registered, equivalent to 378 deaths per million population. In 2020, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines ranked 47th in the Region of the Americas in terms of the number of deaths from COVID-19, 31st in 2021, and 19th in 2022 with a cumulative 965.67 deaths per million population over the considered years (Figure 6).
According to estimates by the World Health Organization, there was a total of 106 excess deaths in 2020, or 106 per 100 000 population; a total of 386 deaths were estimated in 2021, for an excess mortality rate of 386 per 100 000.
As of 31 December 2021, at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine had been given to 32.6% of the country's population. As of 20 April 2022 (latest available data), 27% of the population had completed the vaccination schedule. The vaccination campaign began on 20 February 2021, and five types of COVID-19 vaccine have been used to date.
Figure 6. Cumulative COVID-19 deaths in the Region of the Americas, to July 29th, 2023
Measures to achieve universal health coverage
In 2013, The Government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines released its long-term economic and social development plan (2013–2025). This plan laid out a broad framework for addressing some of the recognized challenges for the health sector, including fiscal constraints, an aging population, high rates of unemployment, relatively high levels of poverty, and an upsurge in noncommunicable diseases. Strategies included strengthening administrative capacity for healthcare governance, expanding public health and primary care for health prevention and noncommunicable disease risk factor reduction, reorienting health services for the challenge of noncommunicable diseases, and improving mental health care.
Building on this development plan, the National Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases (2017–2025) detailed five priority areas to combat the increasing noncommunicable disease burden, namely, strengthening the coordination and management of noncommunicable disease prevention and control programs; promoting healthy and active communities through multisectoral policies and partnerships; reducing noncommunicable disease risk factors and enabling healthy behaviors through increasing access to protective factors; health system strengthening for managing noncommunicable diseases and associated risk factors; and improved surveillance, research, and information to provide evidence on health sector priorities and for health communication. The plan recognized the need for a radical reorientation of the healthcare system toward service delivery models for chronic care, and a strong focus on health promotion and partnerships with nonhealth sectors and communities.
Challenges related to population health
The population of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is aging, and the pace of this aging is predicted to increase. In 1980, the proportion of the population aged 65 and older was 5.8%. This proportion almost doubled to an estimated 10% by 2020 and is predicted to double again to 21.6% by 2060. This future increase of 11.7 percentage points represents a rapid rise in older adults, above the regional averages for the Caribbean of 10.7 percentage points, but below the average for the Americas of 13.7 percentage points. There has been important progress in reducing the burden of neonatal disorders and HIV/AIDS, both down by over one-half since 2000. The burden of road injuries has been reduced by one-third in the same period.
These successes contribute to a disease burden increasingly dominated by noncommunicable diseases. Cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and cancers in 2019 were the top three causes of death and disability, collectively accounting for around 45% of all healthy life lost. Including all other noncommunicable diseases raises this burden to almost 80% of all healthy life lost. Diabetes accounts for almost 10% of all healthy life lost. The burden of diabetes has increased by more than one-third since 2000, is driven by nationally high rates of obesity, and requires lifelong comprehensive care that is onerous for those living with the condition and for healthcare financing. Solutions to the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases require multisectoral cooperation.
COVID-19 pandemic response
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines experienced three extended COVID-19 outbreak surges between April 2020 and May 2022, with over 100 confirmed deaths by May 2022 concentrated mostly during the last two outbreaks, in October 2021 and in January–February 2022. COVID-19 is one example of an external pressure, and these pressures are recognized as a major risk to the ongoing healthcare reform. On 9 April 2022, La Soufrière volcano erupted on the main island of Saint Vincent, requiring evacuation of more than 13,000 nearby residents, and estimates of damage to food and forestry in the region of US$ 150 million. This emergency was another example of overlapping environmental crises, as the eruption affected a country already impacted by an ongoing dengue outbreak and the socioeconomic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which derailed the tourism industry, one of the main economic activities of the island. One year later, the focus is on socioeconomic recovery, with the income of communities heavily affected by the eruption and the COVID-19 pandemic.