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Story Highlights

  • Leader of the 'Good Health Begins at Home’ initiative, Dr. Michael Coombs, says enough partnerships have been forged with public- and private-sector entities to bring about more stable homes in Jamaica.
  • Dr. Coombs says fractured homes have negative effects on the health system and impede the educational progress of children, adding that if they are tackled, less pressure will be placed on curative health, and more children will become high achievers.
  • According to Dr. Coombs, the programme was developed from evidence showing that male-related issues are linked to crime and violence, substance abuse, sexual promiscuity and other issues which are having devastating effects on the social fabric of the country.

Leader of the ‘Good Health Begins at Home’ initiative, Dr. Michael Coombs, says enough partnerships have been forged with public- and private-sector entities to bring about more stable homes in Jamaica.

Dr. Coombs, who is the Regional Technical Director at the Southern Regional Health Authority (SRHA), the lead agency on the programme, notes that research has shown that children do better when they have stable parents.

He tells JIS News that the recently launched initiative has as its main objective, “to educate and empower parents on the importance of effective parenting, especially during the formative years of children”.

Dr. Coombs says fractured homes have negative effects on the health system and impede the educational progress of children, adding that if they are tackled, less pressure will be placed on curative health, and more children will become high achievers.

Other partners on the initiative are the National Association for the Family (NAF); the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information; the Ministry of National Security; the Church, and others.

The programme has a component called Man Up, and Dr. Coombs says it has resonated with various entities and individuals in Jamaica and across the Caribbean.

“To correct the ‘un-involvement’ in our homes of fathers, in a sustainable way, we must reach out to the young men before they become fathers,” he says.

He notes that  at a recent forum for men, held at the Kendal Camp and Conference Centre, in Manchester, several young males indicated that they have made meaningful changes after being taken “on a journey” on how to be responsible fathers.

Dr. Coombs says topics were centred around “important attributes of real men, such as commitment to family as a priority, self-development and how we treat our women with love”.

There were oral and video presentations, testimonials and group discussions, which addressed key male-related issues, while highlighting essentials of fatherhood, families, marriage and the importance of children seeing their mothers being respected by fathers.

More than 300 young males attended the forum, at the end of which they expressed satisfaction with its impact.

“Many of them changed their views about fathering and the number of young women they have, and how they are going to approach marriage. They really received it from comments that we saw,” Dr. Coombs says.

The programme is targeting young men between 15 and 25 years, and the Ministry of Health official says a curriculum will be used in educational institutions and other fora to influence the population for outcomes that will make the society better.

According to Dr. Coombs, the programme was developed from evidence showing that male-related issues are linked to crime and violence, substance abuse, sexual promiscuity and other issues which are having devastating effects on the social fabric of the country.

In his address at the launch of the initiative in Mandeville, Minster of Health, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, said it is calling for responsible actions and is saying “prevention is better than cure”.

“I believe it is an approach that can contribute significantly to better health care, and the well-being of our society. The partnership is critical, we are part of it, and we will do what we can to embrace and support it,” the Minister said.

Several groups and schools have made requests for members of the partnership to make presentations to their organisations, while other institutions, such as Knox College, have already established their Man Up clubs.

“This initiative concentrates our minds, and invites our actions towards uplifting the family. I believe that personal good health begins at home. I further believe that a healthy nation begins to emerge through the effort of creating healthier homes,” says Principal of Knox College, Dr. Gordon Cowan.

Describing the initiative as “great”, Dr. Cowan says it is already having an impact on the more than 700 male students at his institution.

Dr. Coombs says his group is committed to respond to calls from groups and individuals who are interested in promoting the model that they have developed for better parenting, as the cycle of absentee fathers and all its related challenges must be broken.

“We should see a reduction in crime and violence, teenage pregnancies, child abuse and drug abuse; better performance in schools, and more of our young men going on to tertiary-level education,” he tells JIS News.

Dr. Coombs says more responsible men need to pass on crucial values to young males and to serve as mentors, as this is something Jamaica desperately needs “to turn around the existing culture to one of responsible manhood and masculinity”.