Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, said that Jamaica can be proud of its gains in health care over the past 50 years, which compare favourably with the rest of the world.
“Much work has been done to lay the foundation and to move us towards a more developed society. We have seen significant improvement in many areas over the years through hard work and sustained effort. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) 2000 health system ranking puts Jamaica at 53 out of 190 countries. We ranked among the top six in the region and the top three in the English-speaking Caribbean,” Dr. Ferguson said.
He was addressing the opening of the Medical Association of Jamaica's (MAJ's) symposium 2012 on June 4 at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston.
Among the areas of achievement is improvement in life expectancy from 55 years in 1950, to now stand at 71.5 years for males and 75 for females, Infant mortality has been reduced from 98.7 per 1,000 live births in 1944, to now stand at 21 per 1,000 live births, while the fertility rate now stands at 2.3, moving from as high as 5.5 in the 1970's.
The Health Minister further informed that prior to the 1980s, the mortality rate for diseases such as measles, polio, neo-natal tetanus, tuberculosis, diphtheria, bacterial meningitis and pneumonia was very high, but with the introduction of the expanded programme of immunization in 1977, the mortality rate for these illnesses declined significantly.
"Now, we can boast that the last case of polio was in 1982, the last case of locally transmitted measles was in 1991, the last case of diphtheria was in 1995, and the last case of rubella was in 2000," he said.
He stressed that these gains must not be taken for granted "as they represent years of progress and hard work towards a stable and healthy society, despite a fiscally challenging environment".
The Minister noted however that despite the gains, "we have a lot more to do to achieve the type of first world health system that we envision."
The symposium was part of activities for MAJ Week, which is being celebrated from June 3 to June 10.
Held under the theme: 'Fifty Years of Independent Medicine: Celebrating the past, planning the future', the symposium was open to persons in the medical, nursing and related fields. Discussions explored the socio-cultural determinants of health, and environmental, economic and lifestyle-related issues that impact negatively on the health and wellbeing of Jamaicans and other members of the Caribbean Community.
The event featured the annual public lecture, which was delivered by Professor of Social Psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College in London, Tom K.J. Craig.