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JIS News

Health Minister, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, says the final draft of the National Health Insurance Plan is being prepared for submission to Cabinet.

“We held a series of consultations with a range of stakeholders. We still may do a few more, but ultimately, Cabinet will have to approve it; then there is the matter of how you operationalise it. So, it is a scheduled implementation and will take some time to get to full throttle,” he said.

He was speaking to JIS News at the opening of the ninth annual National Health Research Conference at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston on Thursday (November 22).

Dr. Tufton said that the insurance plan aims to “get more people involved (in accessing) health coverage”, and will ensure that the most vulnerable have some basic insurance.

“A lot of Jamaicans are accessing health coverage in terms of the National Health Fund (NHF) but that is (just) drugs. There is 20 per cent of the population that have private health insurance; about 12 per cent of those are government workers and then the rest are private,” he pointed out.

“The insurance that is being envisioned will enhance some of the other components of benefits, whether it is diagnostic or otherwise, and develop a more organised way to outsource some of those benefits. So it is an attempt at a more holistic approach to ensuring universal access to healthcare,” he explained further.

The two-day Health Research Conference is aimed at giving recognition to research being conducted in the public sector and partner institutions across the country.

The conference entails the sharing of findings on health studies conducted by the Ministry and other institutions and individuals in Jamaica; identifying operational research with the potential to influence or be translated into policy; and facilitating special discussions and presentations on the conference theme, ‘Achieving Healthy Goals: Don’t Wish for it, Work for it’.

Dr. Tufton said that the event provides an important means of promoting research and evidence-based decision-making in informing public health interventions.

He noted that research is “what informs the identification and measurement of milestones for (health) interventions and helps us to determine when we need to shift gears to accelerate progress. We see this very clearly as we contemplate the challenges we face with non-communicable diseases (NCDS)”.

Pan-American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) Representative in Jamaica, Dr. Bernadette Theodore-Gandi, commended the Ministry for staging the forum to discuss the outcomes of research findings, with the aim of strengthening existing systems and providing encouragement and support to the researchers.

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

Dr. Theodore-Gandi said the WHO recognises research and innovation as foundations for sustainable development and providing medical, social and environmental solutions.

During the opening of the conference, student researchers, as well as their principal investigators, were presented with grants by the Ministry of Health, valued at $1.5 million, for the execution of research that supports the priorities of the Ministry.

There were various presentations, including the findings of the Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey by Principal Medical Officer in the Ministry, Dr. Karen Webster-Kerr.