Health Ministry Co-Hosts Regional TB Workshop in Montego Bay


A five-day Health workshop is presently underway at the Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort, in Montego Bay. It is aimed at improving the regional approach to the treatment and care of Tuberculosis (TB), through the upgrading of the knowledge and skills of managers and coordinators of TB programmes across the region.
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), in collaboration with the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre (CAREC) and the Ministry of Health is staging the workshop, which began on Monday, February 14, 2005. Approximately 40 health officials representing countries such as Bahamas, Belize, Dominican Republic, Guyana, Haiti, Suriname, St. Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago Turks and Caicos Islands and host country Jamaica, are in attendance.
The workshop forms part of a PAHO/WHO initiative towards capacity building for TB control within the region, with specific focus on TB/HIV co-morbidity. During the five days, the need for well-trained staff to monitor and treat the occurrence of TB/HIV will be highlighted as critical components of the programme of reducing morbidity and mortality with respect to TB and TB/HIV/AIDS.
According to the PAHO, national TB Programmes in most countries of the region have been evaluated between 1995 and 2004, and the findings have revealed a number of weaknesses related to surveillance, case-finding and diagnosis, monitoring systems, laboratory support, treatment and follow-up.
Representatives at the workshop will be sharing their individual country experiences in relation to TB programmes, followed by discussions and proposals on the way forward.
In presenting the Jamaican experience, Medical Officer for surveillance in the Ministry’s surveillance Unit, Dr. Erica Headman pointed out that the occurrence of TB cases in Jamaica for the last 10 years had been a stable amount ranging from 108 to 128 cases per year, dropping from a high of 300 cases per year. These statistics, she stated, had caused Jamaica to be categorized as a low prevalence, low incidence country.
“In light of the AIDS epidemic, and the exponential growth of the AIDS epidemic, there is concern about the resurgence of TB in Jamaica, even though we are considered to be low prevalence,” she stated.
Dr. Headman emphasized that a look at the statistics for co-infected cases between 1993 and 2003 would show an increase in the number of cases, which she aligned to the fact that increased screening had been taking place during that period.
“However, we will not miss the point that in 2003 approximately just under 40 per cent of our cases of TB are co-infected, so that is something to consider,” she pointed out.
She named the parishes of St. James, Kingston and St. Andrew, and St. Catherine as those with the highest rates of TB infection. Dr. Headman outlined the strategies being carried out across the country in an effort to control and eradicate the disease. “The TB control has been a national priority for the Ministry of Health, and this is in keeping with, and in recognition of the WHO targets, and the millennium development goals for TB,” Dr. Headman emphasized.
The agenda for the workshop has been split into two modules, with module one being done on days one to three, and covering the topic ‘TB/HIV collaborative activities’, while module two will be conducted on days four and five covering the topic, ‘Management of TB control programmes’.

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