Health Ministry Launches Communicable Diseases Manual


The Ministry of Health in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), yesterday (November 3), launched a surveillance manual, which contains guidelines on the investigation and management of communicable diseases.
The launch, held at the Sunset Jamaica Grande Resort in Ocho Rios, coincided with the opening of a two-day surveillance workshop for health care workers, to help them better monitor the outbreak of contagious infections.
Participants will be engaged in discussion concerning the epidemiology and clinical management of common vector borne diseases in Jamaica, among other issues.
Chief Medical Officer in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Sheila Campbell Forrester, said that the manual will address shortcomings and promote the best use of public health resources in reporting and investigating cases.
She said that all health professionals will have access to the manual and urged them to follow the guidelines stipulated. “Your cooperation is crucial for facilitating an improved national surveillance system,” she stated.
According to Dr. Campbell Forrester, effectively combating communicable diseases depends on the strength of the surveillance system, the reporting of cases, collection and analysis of data and the action taken.
She noted that while, locally, the prevalence of communicable diseases has declined over the past decades, the worldwide outbreak of contagious infections, such as Influenza A (H1N1), which have the capability to compromise the health security of a nation, continue to surface.
Dr. Campbell Forrester informed that H1N1, which has infected 149 Jamaicans to date, with five deaths reported, “is providing an opportunity for testing our surveillance system in real time”.
“We have identified some weaknesses and these include the timeliness and standardisation of reports and also vigorous monitoring. However, we are happy that we have used the opportunity to develop plans and to intervene where we can at this time to improve on our system,” she stated.
Environmental Health Advisor at PAHO, Dr. Homero Silva, in his remarks, stated that the launch of the national surveillance manual is a “great achievement for Jamaica and represents a major milestone towards the ultimate goal of bringing all major health problems facing the Jamaican population to a level where they no longer constitute a threat to public health.”
While crediting Jamaica for eradicating and eliminating major communicable diseases, he stated that the global outbreaks of infections such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), H1N1, and the re-emergence of malaria and dengue, clearly demonstrate the need to further strengthen national capacities in communicable disease surveillance.
“With this manual in place, it is highly expected that data collection and reporting will significantly improve. But let us not lose sight of the main objective, which is to produce reliable information to guide timely decision making in the allocation of human, material and financial resources needed to respond to specific health problems,” he said.
He encouraged health care workers to ensure that data was not only collected and reported to higher administrative levels but that it was also analysed, interpreted and presented in such a way that it could be easily understood by those who should take action.

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