Health Official Expresses Optimism for Care of Chronic Disease Patients


At least 75 per cent of persons suffering from chronic diseases, such as hypertension and diabetes, should have better access to health care, and improved management of their conditions, by 2012.
Acting Director of Disease Prevention and Control in the Ministry of Health and Environment, Dr. Sonia Copeland, expressed this optimism, today (November 12), at the launch of the National Clinical Guidelines for the Management of Hypertension and Diabetes, at the Medallion Hall Hotel, in Kingston.
Dr. Copeland said the figure would be consistent with the goals of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Port of Spain Declaration, agreed on by regional leaders, at a meeting in Trinidad and Tobago, in 2007, which sought to ensure that persons living with chronic non-communicable diseases, are provided with the best available health care by 2012, inclusive of accessibility and affordability.
She said the publication of the documents was timely, given the status of the diseases in Jamaica.
“We know that we have, roughly seven or eight per cent of our adult population, who are affected by diabetes. But as we reviewed the recently released findings of the lifestyles survey, the concern is with the growing number of Type II diabetes among children. That is the epidemiological shift that we are most worried about,” Dr. Copeland pointed out.
“Roughly 20 per cent of our adult population are actually living with hypertension, (and) we also know that one in seven adults smoke. So, we really have to continue looking at modifiable risk behaviour, and find ways of reducing it,” she added.
Noting that the World Health Organisation (WHO), proposed that four modifiable behaviours, pertaining to diet, physical activity, smoking, and alcohol use, be targeted, Dr. Copeland argued that individuals could be influenced to pursue a healthy diet, adding that “we have a proposal with the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), to come out with dietary guidelines.”
Dr. Copeland said efforts to reduce the incidence of chronic diseases locally, are underpinned by the availability of adequate numbers of requisite personnel. These, she pointed out, include: educators, nurses, doctors, foot care technicians, and nutritionists/dieticians.
“We also need to encourage those affected, to have their own support group. Persons with these conditions, who are a part of a support group, where they can share some of their best practices, usually do much better at managing their conditions,” she noted.
Dr. Copeland pointed out that accessibility to treatment in public health facilities, is greatly enhanced with the abolition of user fees, adding that, “what we have to work on now, is to have the vacancies filled for those very critical areas.”
She explained that nationally, health sector stakeholders “have done some very bold things,” which are helping to put Jamaica in good stead, as it relates to the Port-of-Spain Declaration.
“So, I would say that Jamaica is on the right path, as it relates to fighting the epidemic. And, with the launching of these manuals, we are helping to guarantee a minimum standard, that we will be using in all our health centres, and in all our clinics,” Dr. Copeland said.
The National Clinical Guidelines, which were developed by a panel of experts from the Ministry of Health and Environment, outline steps to be taken when screening for diabetes and hypertension, as well as how to treat and manage the diseases. The documents will be used by health care workers, both in the private and public sectors.

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