Minister of State in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Hon. Juliet Cuthbert Flynn, says Jamaica is on the right track in tackling non-communicable diseases (NCDs), particularly as the country battles the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Persons living with NCDs are at higher risk of the worst effects of COVID-19.
The Government, long before the pandemic, has been tackling NCDs through a national prevention campaign that is focused on promoting healthy eating and physical activity.
There is also a National Strategic and Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs, which covers seven main categories of diseases – cardiovascular conditions, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases, diabetes, sickle cell, mental health disorders and chronic renal failure.
“We have been doing a good job but we need to pay more attention to it, especially now with the onset of Covid-19 and its effect on co-morbidities,” Mrs. Cuthbert Flynn said while addressing a meeting at the Southern Regional Health Authority (SRHA) in Manchester recently.
The meeting preceded a tour of health facilities to get an overview of the operations of the region.
Mrs. Cuthbert Flynn, who has responsibility for maternal health, and HIV prevention and drug abuse, said that the objective was to identify areas of need.
“I think it is important that when patients go to a facility, they are comfortable even though they are sick. I want to look around today, see what the deficiencies are and work from there,” she noted.
SRHA Chairman, Wayne Chen, said he would like to see all health facilities brought into the digital/technological age in the “very near future”, so that doctors at a rural health centre can use videoconferencing to make contact with specialists at the University Hospital at the West Indies (UHWI), for example, to help diagnose a patient.
Mrs. Cuthbert Flynn agreed, noting that “in the time of COVID, tele-medicine should make us be able to dial in, since there is a drop in the number of persons going to see their doctors out of fear”.
Custos of Manchester, Garfield Green, who was also in attendance, updated the State Minister on the newly formed community response programme, which seeks to get citizens on board in support of the Government’s fight against the pandemic.
“We have put together a committee from my office, comprising the SRHA, the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA), the Social Development Commission (SDC) and the Ministry of Education (Youth and Culture).
We met and have come up with strategies including visits to business places in Christiana and Mandeville to see what is being practised and give recommendations and suggestions for improvement,” Custos Green said.
He noted that business owners have expressed a willingness to support the initiative and have requested to have posters, flyers and other educational material placed on their premises to share with customers.