There have been modest gains in family planning and reproductive health in the island since 2002, with data showing a decline in the fertility rate and improvement in sexual health practices among the adolescent age group.
As contained in the 2008 reproductive health survey, the findings of which were revealed at a dissemination seminar hosted by the National Family Planning Board (NFPB) today (Oct. 28) at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston, Jamaica’s fertility rate is at 2.4, which is a decline from 2.5 per cent in 2002.
Minister of Health, Ruddy Spencer, welcomed the decline, but noted that the “age specific fertility rate among the 20-24 age cohort has increased by three percentage points, which is a reversal of a decline five years ago.”
He said however that it was encouraging to note that the age specific fertility rate for the 15 to 19 age group went down by just over 10 per cent, with 71 births per 1,000 young women in this group, down from 79 births in 2002.
“We must achieve a faster rate of decline for this group as these young women should be in school continuing their education. This is important if we are to break the cycle of poverty.we must also bear in mind that women are especially vulnerable to poverty because they earn lower wages and their work life and education are frequently disrupted,” he stated.
The report also drew attention to the sexual practices and behaviours of the nations’ youth, citing a 2.6 per cent decline in reported sexual experience in the 15-24 age group. Abstinence among that same cohort increased from 17.9 per cent in 2002 to 25 per cent in the 2008 survey, with abstinence among young women increasing from 31 per cent to 33.6 per cent in 2008.
Meanwhile, Minister Spencer said the Ministry needs to have a better understanding of what influenced the decline in family planning visits to health centres from 2005-2007 by women at the peak of their reproduction capacity.
Minister of Health, Hon. Rudyard Spencer (right) peruses the day’s agenda with Board Chairman of the National Family Planning Board, Mrs. Patricia Broderick-Taylor, before the start of the national dissemination seminar for the 2008 reproductive health survey. The seminar was hosted by the National Family Planning Board (NFPB), at the Knutsford Court Hotel today (Oct. 28).
The Ministry’s data showed that the number of women visiting clinics declined from 242, 458 to 205, 286 during those three years, while for the 20-29 age group, visits declined from 110,036 in 2005 to 86,073 in 2007.
Mr. Spencer while welcoming the gains said that efforts must be redoubled if more significant inroads are to be made. He said that in examining reproductive health issues, the role played by men and their relationships with women must become a central part of the research and evidence gathering, policy formulation strategies and service delivery options.
Male involvement in reproductive health must, he said, reflect an approach that embraces men as partners, and as agents of positive change.
“The country must be bold enough to systematically deconstruct existing notions of male and female roles, and to re-define women’s and men’s spheres of functioning,” he stated.
In her remarks, Mission Director of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Dr. Karen Hilliard, said that the evidence shows that adolescents are hearing the message about healthy lifestyles, and are changing their behavior. “This is music to our ears at the USAID because for the past nine years, we have devoted over $16 million to adolescent reproductive health programme to tackle precisely these issues,” she said.
Dr. Hilliard pointed out that the USAID continues to provide Jamaica, which is now considered a lower middle income country, with development assistance, but had in fact, graduated Jamaica from the USAID’s family planning assistance in 2008, because local programmes and policies have been so successful.
However, she said, “while the job may be nearing completion in terms of general family planning trends, adolescent pregnancy is still too common and there are several trends in behavior that continue to concern us, especially as it relates to the transmission of HIV/AIDS”. Therefore, she said, although the USAID no longer provides family planning assistance to Jamaica, it will continue to ramp up funding for HIV/AIDS prevention.
The seminar provided an insight into the state of the Jamaican population as it relates to fertility rate, contraceptive use, and other areas of reproductive health. It disseminated select findings of the 2008 reproductive health survey and sought to create greater awareness of reproductive health issues; determine the extent to which programme goals are met; and identify the implications for the national reproductive health programme.