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    Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, has endorsed the 11th Annual Health Research Conference, which will focus on additional solutions Caribbean countries can develop in their fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19), and assist with policy direction.

    The two-day conference, which began on Thursday (November 19), is being held at the Courtyard Marriot hotel in Kingston, and online through the Zoom platform, under the theme ‘The COVID-19 Experience: Adjusting to the New Normal’.

    Dr. Tufton argued that COVID-19 presents two challenges, which the conference aims to address.

    “First, we need to address the burden of chronic non-communicable diseases. This is [already] being done by the Ministry through a number of initiatives, including our Jamaica Moves programme, which emphasises physical activity, nutrition and routine health checks,” the Minister said.

    “We have also launched a wellness agenda to include workplace wellness and a national school nutrition policy, a home-based wellness garden programme and ‘better-for-you’ menu options, the promotion of wellness events, and market ‘pop-ups’ across the island. Greater emphasis will be placed on these initiatives post-COVID-19,” Dr. Tufton added.

    He said the second challenge is that persons with co-morbidities are at greater risk of more severe illnesses and death, including COVID-19, and preliminary analysis of data on COVID-19 cases indicate that persons with co-morbidities are at significantly increased risk of death.

    “This year’s conference is responding to these challenges. In addition to a special panel discussion on Striking the Balance in Health and Wellness, there are 14 scientific presentations pertaining to COVID-19. We look forward to the sharing of these and other findings, and encourage presentations in other fora, to ensure that our response is evidence-based, and can benefit from local data,” Dr. Tufton said.

    “Our vision for this event sees us setting research priorities to guide what we do, enacting laws and policies to govern the conduct of research, increasing the capacity of the Ministry and other institutions to conduct the research needed for decision-making, and disseminating the results to varying audiences using a number of different research products,” he noted.

    He said the vision is also supported by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Caribbean Public Health Agency, and is part of the country’s Vision 2030 National Development Plan, with the development and implementation of the governance policy and strategic framework mentioned in the Medium Term Socio-Economic Policy Framework for 2018-2021.

    Dr. Tufton said he is pleased that this conference, as has been the case in the past, is set in the context of Essential National Health Research that supports national development, informs what Jamaica can do while providing data to improve how it operates, and guides the best use of resources.

    He commended the Ministry of Health and Wellness’ National Epidemiology Team and the Essential National Health Research Committee, whose hard work has made this two-day event possible.

    This year’s conference also includes presentations on mental health during COVID-19, Health Innovations, Maternal Health, the JAMCOVID-19 Application, Year of the Nurse and Midwife, and the Data Protection Act.

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