• Feature
    Minister of Health and Wellness (left), Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, addresses the opening session of the ninth Annual National Health Research Conference at the Jamaica Conference Centre on November 22, 2018.
    Photo: Adrian Walker

    Story Highlights

    • As the Ministry of Health and Wellness prepares for the 10th staging of the National Health Research Conference (NHRC), organisers are grateful for the achievements of the past and look towards the future, as the conference continues to be a source of direction for the work of the Ministry.
    • Director, Epidemiological Research and Data Analysis Unit of the Ministry, which houses the NHRC Secretariat, Dr. Andriene Grant, tells JIS News that the conference has been impactful over its nine years of existence.
    • The 2019 Conference is scheduled for November 21 to 22. “Research is a continuous process, and most of the findings of the researchers who present at the conference with respect to the Ministry of Health and Wellness are instructive, in terms of policy and practice,” she says.

    As the Ministry of Health and Wellness prepares for the 10th staging of the National Health Research Conference (NHRC), organisers are grateful for the achievements of the past and look towards the future, as the conference continues to be a source of direction for the work of the Ministry.

    Director, Epidemiological Research and Data Analysis Unit of the Ministry, which houses the NHRC Secretariat, Dr. Andriene Grant, tells JIS News that the conference has been impactful over its nine years of existence.

    The 2019 Conference is scheduled for November 21 to 22. “Research is a continuous process, and most of the findings of the researchers who present at the conference with respect to the Ministry of Health and Wellness are instructive, in terms of policy and practice,” she says.

    She cites the Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey (JHLS) which was disseminated in September 2018 and ventilated at the ninth annual conference in November, 2018, at the Jamaica Conference Centre.

    Dr. Grant says the JHLS is an important tool used in Jamaica to determine how the Ministry seeks to find solutions for the country’s challenges.

    “It is one of the main surveys that present findings on cardiovascular diseases and their risk factors, and at the last staging of the conference, findings on chikungunya were presented for the first time,” she notes.

    Dr. Grant says the conference is held with the intention of highlighting the research of public-sector workers, but over the years it has expanded and “we now have good partnerships with educational institutions and other researchers”.

    According to the Director, the 2018 staging, which was held under the theme ‘Achieving Healthy Goals: Don’t Wish For It, Work For It’, had more than 600 participants with 44 presentations, 26 of which were poster presentations and 18 oral presentations.

    “The hope is that the research will continue to be highlighted, not just at the Conference but also within the public sector, because we are about informing policy and practice, not just of the Health Ministry but others as well,” she explains.

    Dr. Grant informs that there is generally a good mix of persons participating in the conference, many of whom are nurses who are primarily from the public sector, but there are also policymakers and representatives from educational institutions as well as donor partners.

    She points out that particular stakeholders are invited to ensure that the discussion is rich.

    “We are hoping each year to strengthen that link between research and policy. In terms of implementation, we will start within the Ministry,” she says, adding that in 2018, one particular study carried out by the orthopaedic team at the St. Ann’s Bay Hospital yielded some interesting findings on motorbike injuries.

    “That has potentially far-reaching implications. The Director of the Road Safety Unit in the Ministry of Transport and Mining was at the presentation and expressed interest in it,” she informs.

    For her part, Acting Director of Health Promotion and Protection at the Ministry, Dr. Simone Spence, explains that the objectives of the conference include sharing findings of health research studies conducted by the Ministry of Health and Wellness and other institutions and individuals in Jamaica; identifying operational research with the potential to influence policy, and facilitating special discussions or presentations that focus on the conference theme of any given year.

    “It is a primary forum to highlight the research of public-sector workers, and it gives us an opportunity to highlight operational research to provide data which can guide improvements in programme planning and delivery,” she says.

    “Of course we have to keep in sight our Vision 2030 National Development Plan, and this is a key strategy in terms of providing evidence to guide our policy and practice,” she adds.

    The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has expressed satisfaction with the conference by congratulating Jamaica for staging the event.

    They also commend portfolio Minister, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, and his team at the Ministry for providing a “forum where everyone can come together to discuss the outcome of research findings and provide encouragement to the researchers; [and] strategise around new and existing research, with the aim of strengthening our existing system.”

    While speaking at the opening ceremony of the ninth annual conference, PAHO Country Head, Dr. Bernadette Theodore-Gandi, explained the synergies between her organisation and the conference.

    Minister of Health, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton (right), in discussion with (from left): Acting Head, Senior Chemist at the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) Medicines Quality Control and Surveillance Department, Mrs. Sonia Thomas Gordon; Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Country Head, Dr. Bernadette Theodore-Gandi; and Acting Director, Health Promotion and Protection, Ministry of Health, Dr. Simone Spence.

     

    “As the specialised national health agency for this region, one of PAHO’s core functions is to strengthen capacity for research through shaping the research agenda and the generation, dissemination and translation of knowledge, promotion of research, governance and the monitoring of ethics and standards with research practices,” she said.

    Dr. Theodore-Gandi further pointed out that the NHRC forms a part of PAHO’s core work.

    “Quality research allows us to drive continuous improvements and access to quality health services. Our commitment to the sustainable development goals and the realisation of universal health require and demand this,” she continued.

    Dr. Theodore-Gandi explained that the fifth of the World Health Organisation (WHO) six lines of action for promoting health in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognises research and innovation as foundations for sustainable development and must include a balance of research on medical, social and environmental determinants and solutions.

    According to the PAHO Country Head, “As we conduct research and unearth new information, we should also assume an ethical obligation to analyse and use this information for society’s good, to guide policy change and to evaluate interventions with the aim of strengthening our health systems.”

    A call for abstracts has been issued, and mental health, nutrition, best practices, advances in medicine and sickle cell disease will be showcased. However, abstracts of high-quality research that do not fall under the named themes above, will also be accepted. The deadline for submission of abstracts is Friday, September 20, 2019 at 4:00 p.m.