Jamaica has endorsed the Strategy for Building Resilient Health Systems and Post-COVID-19 Pandemic Recovery to Sustain and Protect Public Health Gains, advanced at the 59th PAHO Directing Council meeting now underway in Washington DC.
The strategy prescribes, among other things, prioritisation of primary health care, increased and sustained public financing in health and social protection, together with strengthened health system delivery networks as key lines of action to achieve resilience.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has been an unprecedented challenge and an unforeseen opportunity. It has exposed long-standing deficiencies in our health systems and has highlighted the need for a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach to enhancing public health capacities,” noted Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie, who is a member of the Jamaica delegation to the meeting and who addressed the Council on the island’s behalf.
The meeting is being chaired this year by Jamaica, whose delegation is led by Minister of Health & Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton.
“Many countries, as the pandemic unfolded, have wondered what resilience looks like as we have been surprised in the lack of resilience where we thought it would be and the ‘taken-for-granted’ strengths in places where we never expected it. We are cognisant of the emphasis that is once again being placed on developing strong primary health care system,” she added.
Jamaica, the CMO noted, has benefitted, in its COVID-19 response, from a good primary care foundation together with a community health programme.
“This primary care wall allowed us to manage prevention and containment with oversight that was provided by strong emergency and disaster management coordination, while we built capacity in our hospitals to face the onslaught of the inevitable surges,” she explained.
At the same time, the CMO said the pandemic has allowed the country the chance to build capacity in several areas – from implementing and monitoring quarantine and isolation islandwide to the provision of high-dependency care as well as enhanced laboratory capacity and the improved use of surveillance data in implementing rapid responses to emergency situations.
Still, the CMO said, there is still some way to go.
“There are several areas that require more attention to provide elasticity to our health system that will ensure resilience in the face of natural or man-made disasters. Learning from the lessons of this pandemic, strong collaborative multi-sectoral approaches are required to ensure health in all policies that must be a cornerstone of resilience of not only the health system but the social and economic fabric of the country,” she noted.
It is against this background that Jamaica endorsed the strategy while also calling for attention to the need for resilience building in information management.
“Jamaica is appreciative of the proposed strategic approach and fully endorses the resolutions. We recommend, however, that more emphasis be placed on building resilience in information management, risk communication and public relations within and without the health system, in normal times, pre-pandemic or interpandemic times. This, we believe, is an important pillar of recovery as it can enhance or diminish a country’s efforts at strengthening other areas,” the CMO said.
“As we move forward, we recognise the urgency to build resilience and look forward to the continued support and leadership from PAHO in implementing the strategies outlined,” she added.