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Health Minister, John Junor has said that the country has maintained a fairly focused and equitable system for delivering healthcare.
“We find that we maintained reasonably good health standards when compared to developed and developing countries including the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom,” the Minister said as he addressed the launch of the United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) State of the World Population Report for 2005 yesterday (Oct.12) at the Hilton Kingston Hotel.
He further pointed out that life expectancy in Jamaica was 76.1 years, compared to the 77.4 years in the United States, 77.5 in Barbados, 77 in Canada and 71.1 in Trinidad and Tobago.
“What we have been able to do for the most part, despite the constraints, is to maximize our resources so in terms of positive health indicators, Jamaica has managed to maintain stability in the public health system,” he said, adding that tribute must be paid to the country’s health workers.
Meanwhile, the Health Minister reported that the government has embarked on a number of programmes aimed at poverty alleviation and ensuring that there was equal access to essential services. One of these initiatives is the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH), which involves collaboration with the Ministry of Labour and Social Security.
Turning to issues raised in the State of World Population Report, the Minister said he was particularly proud of the fairly high level of immunization coverage that Jamaica had maintained since the 1990s, which had resulted in the introduction of new vaccines, among other things.
Maternal morbidity and mortality, he said, continued to be of concern, as the rate for Jamaica has remained constant for the past 20 years at 106-110 per 100,000 live births. The major causes of maternal deaths continue to be hypertensive disease, eclampsia, haemorrhage and sepsis.
“HIV/AIDS, violence and other chronic conditions such as obesity and cardiac disease have been increasing,” the Minister informed, adding that life stresses and their impact on mental health have also come to the fore, with suicide accounted for some cases of maternal deaths.
The Health Minister said it was also important to realize the serious threat of HIV/AIDS, but noted that discrimination continued to be a major challenge to treatment and care and also to people going for testing.
The HIV/AIDS Workplace Policy as well as a Schools Policy, Mr. Junor said, have been developed to guide interventions in these areas and reduce the opportunities for discrimination. Advocacy efforts, he said further, have also included encouraging senior public officials and ministers of government to become “champions for change”.
Testing and treatment, he informed, continue to be improved and the introduction of rapid HIV Testing at Kingston Public and Victoria Jubilee hospitals has already identified a number of HIV positive pregnant women, who are showing up just prior to delivery.