KINGSTON — The Ministry of Health is intensifying its health promotion campaign, by focusing on safe motherhood to achieve a maternal mortality rate of 27 per 100,000 live births by 2015.
Safe motherhood is the ability of a woman to undertake pregnancy and childbirth without harming herself or her child. The purpose of the initiative is to promote and protect the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standards of health, and to contribute to the well-being of women and children through advocacy, strategic partnerships and the generation of knowledge.
Minister of Health, Hon. Rudyard Spencer, stated that the initiative was among several aimed at reducing the maternal mortality rate and protecting the family and its foundations.
He was speaking at a recommitment to safe motherhood initiative ceremony at the Victoria Jubilee Hospital, downtown Kingston on Wednesday (October 19).
As part of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Jamaica is expected to reduce its Maternal Mortality Ratio by 75 per cent, in a bid to secure an overall improvement from the 1990 levels by 2015.
Mr. Spencer noted that while Jamaica’s maternal rate has been relatively high for the past 20 years, it has levelled off since.
“The maternal mortality rate moved from 110 per 100,000 live births in 2000 to 83 per 100,000 live births in 2007. We, however, need to achieve a target of, at most, 27 per 100,000 by 2015,” he detailed.
Mr. Spencer also explained that infant and child mortality rates are 19 and 21 per 1,000 live births, down from 25 and 28, respectively, in 1990.
“We have made some improvements over the years, but much more need to be done,” he said.
Safe motherhood focuses on three main objectives: ensuring access for all women to contraceptive services to delay the first birth and avoid unintended pregnancies; ensuring access to skilled care at the time of birth; and providing timely access to quality emergency obstetric care.
He noted that dialogues with the European Union and other international agencies are ongoing, to secure funding to support the safe motherhood programme in Jamaica.
“We hope to strengthen areas such as policy development, surveillance, quality care, monitoring and evaluation. We also want renewed focus on public education, to include community members and health care providers,” he said.
He added that the Ministry will be renewing the National Strategic Plan on Safe Motherhood, as the latest five year plan comes to an end this year.
Mr. Spencer assured that the national maternal mortality review committee will be re-established by the end of the year, in an effort to analyze why women die during pregnancy and immediately after, and to use the information to guide policies and programmes to improve maternal health.
Director of Family Health Services in the Ministry, Dr. Karen Lewis Bell, pointed out that the major causes of maternal deaths continue to be hypertensive disease, haemorrhaging and sepsis due to abortions. However, she said HIV/AIDS, violence, obesity, heart disease and mental illness are increasingly contributing to these deaths.
Dr. Lewis Bell said that, over the years, there has been much improvement in maternal and reproductive health care and services, including: high risk antenatal clinics in each parish; quarterly mortality reviews in each health region; the implementation of a comprehensive maternal record booklet to cover three pregnancies and give anticipatory guidance to pregnant women; developing and airing of public education media messages; development of guidelines and standards for care and surveillance.
Jamaica’s safe motherhood and reproductive health programmes have been strengthened with the support of technical cooperation from agencies such as United Nations Population Fund, World Health Organisation, Pan American Health Organisation and the United Nations Children Fund.
By Chris Patterson, JIS Reporter