Chief Medical Officer (CMO) in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Sheila Campbell-Forrester, has said that while health research can be costly, this area is critical in assisting Jamaica to implement programmes, policies and decisions aimed at improving the nation’s health system.
Dr. Campbell-Forrester was speaking at the inaugural National Health Research Conference (HRC), held at the Wyndham Kingston Hotel, on Thursday November 25.
“As we transform the health sector and try to achieve the 2030 Vision, research focused towards health development and improvement has to be an integral part of moving that agenda,” she said.
Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Sheila Campbell-Forrester (centre), listens keenly to Director, Disease Prevention and Control, Ministry of Health, Dr. Sonia Copeland (second right), at the inaugural National Health Research Conference, at the Wyndham Kingston Hotel. Others (from left) are: Dean, College of Pure and Applied Sciences, Northern Caribbean University (NCU), Dr. Paul Gyles; Environmental Health Advisor, Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), Dr. Homero Silva; and Senior Lecturer and College Co-ordinator, Graduate Studies and Research, University of Technology (UTech), Dr. Cliff Riley.
Citing the importance of health research, she recalled that previous studies and research done on perinatal mortality have facilitated changes to aspects of midwifery in the 1980s in Jamaica. She also cited studies on HIV/AIDS, which has assisted the country to deal with the disease.
The CMO said partnership is critical in research and should be broadened, adding that health researches which are undertaken must be credible and able to “withstand the rigours.”
She defined research as the systematic investigation into, and the study of materials sourced in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions.
Dr. Campbell-Forrester noted that based on the finding evolving from the Essential Public Health Function Review, the Ministry received a high score for institutional research capacity to facilitate public health research. “However, we saw a gap in environmental health and this is becoming a very important aspect of public health,” she said, adding that further partnership is needed in this area.
“We also got a high score for technical assistance and support to sub-national levels and this was assessed as one of the strong areas of the Ministry of Health, in terms of training and joint research projects. However, it was felt by some that researchers at this level were more involved in data collection, rather than data analysis,” she said.
She informed that the Ministry was rated “very poor” on development of the public health research agenda, and that the Ministry has been putting measures in place to address this issue.
“We have a committee and we also have a list of priorities. But, of importance, I think, has to be the partnerships, because we can’t do it on our own,” the CMO emphasised.
Pro-Vice Chancellor, School of Graduate Studies and Research, University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, Dr. Ronald Young, argued that research is fundamentally important.
He said the joint venture which has been created between the Ministry of Health and the Caribbean Health Research Council represents an important aspect of promoting good health care in the country.
Organised under the theme: ‘Bringing Health Research into Focus’, the conference seeks to highlight health research being conducted by the Ministry of Health and other institutions and individuals. The conference will also facilitate discussions on national and regional health research priorities, while providing an excellent opportunity for health research networking.
Among the areas of focus at the two-day conference will be: HIV/AIDS, Mental Health, Chronic Disease, Nutrition, Child Health and Welfare, Pharmaceutical Survey of Jamaica and Human Resources for Health.
Participants include representatives from the CHRC, Scientific Research Council (SRC), University of the West Indies (UWI), University of Technology (UTech), the Northern Caribbean University (NCU), Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), and Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO).