JIS News

KINGSTON — Jamaica compares favourably with the rest of the world in improved infant mortality, life expectancy and fertility rates.

This was disclosed by Minister of Health, Hon. Rudyard Spencer, in a message read by the Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Eva Lewis-Fuller, during the launch of the World Population Report (2011) -‘The World at 7 billion’ – at the Victoria Jubilee Hospital in Kingston, on October 31.

“If we look at the figures for infant mortality, for example, in 1944, it was 98.7 per 1,000 live births. This means that 10 per cent of babies born would die. Today the infant mortality rate stands at 19 per 1,000 live births. Life expectancy at birth at that time was 52.9 years; today it is 71.5 for males and 75 for females -an average of 73 years. The total fertility rate now stands at 2.3, moving from as high as 5.5 in 1970, thus trending towards replacement fertility of two children per woman,” the Minister informed.

Mr. Spencer also reported that the country’s immunization programme has made tremendous impact to eliminate and reduce vaccine-preventable diseases and deaths.

"While Jamaica has maintained relatively high vaccination coverage for many years since 1995, there was some slippage during the late 1990s and early 2000s, with average coverage ebbing at about 83 per cent and below for some vaccines. Since 2009, however, the average coverage has rebounded to 90 per cent and above, outstanding achievements given the environment of resource challenges,” he said.

Mr. Spencer said significant improvements in many areas over the years have been attained through hard work and sustained effort, adding that the World Health Organisation’s 2000 Health Systems ranking puts Jamaica 53 out of 190 countries.

“We ranked among the top six in the region and the top three in the English speaking Caribbean. However, we recognise that this is not an excuse to be complacent. We continue to put policies in place with a view to improving the health sector to ensure that our people have access to quality and affordable health care,” he said.

Some of the findings of the world report indicate that over the last 60 years, the average life expectancy moved from about 48 years in the early 1950s to 68 years in the first decade of the new century. Infant mortality plunged from 133 deaths per 1,000 live births in the 1950s to 46 per 1,000 in the period from 2005 to 2010.

Immunization campaigns have made tremendous impact on child mortality by reducing the prevalence of childhood diseases worldwide. Additionally, the fertility rate declined by more than a half from about 6.0 children per woman to 2.5 per woman because of economic growth and development, increased access to education, more opportunities for women and sexual and reproductive health services.

On October 31, 2011, the world population reached a record seven billion – a billion more than 13 years ago and 6 billion more than the early 1800s.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) State of World Population Report, People and Possibilities in a World of 7 Billion, looks at the dynamics behind the numbers.

It explains the trends that are defining the world of 7 billion and documents actions that people in vastly different countries and circumstances are taking in their own communities to make the most of their world


By Chris Patterson, JIS Reporter

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