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The Ministry of Health (MOH) is to develop a comprehensive policy framework for health promotion, given the rise and impact of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Jamaica.

Minister of Health, Hon Rudyard Spencer

Making his contribution to the 2010/11 Sectoral Debate in Parliament Tuesday (September 21), Minister of Health, Hon Rudyard Spencer, announced that he has instructed ministry technocrats to include supportive mechanisms for inter-sectoral collaboration and integrated planning and monitoring, across the public service.
NCDs are diseases which are not contagious and, in most cases, result from poor lifestyle choices. In light of this, Mr. Spencer said a strong and effective health promotion agenda is indispensable to breaking the cycle of ill-health, and relieving Jamaicans of the burden of preventable illnesses.
“Such an agenda relies on a pragmatic policy and an appropriate legal framework, effective inter-sectoral participation and the mobilisation of the Jamaican public,” he told the Parliament.
To drive home the importance of health promotion, Mr. Spencer said that 11 per cent of Jamaican teenagers in the 10-15 year old cohort are overweight, while 35 per cent of the 15-18 year old cohort is obese. He added that the early onset of obesity is linked to earlier onset of adult risk factors associated with cardiovascular diseases, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and Type 2 Diabetes.
“The combined cost of treating hypertension and diabetes is more than $2.84 billion. These two diseases account for 70 per cent of the claims on the National Health Fund,” he continued.
Mr. Spencer also linked risky sexual behaviour, such as sex with multiple partners and transactional sex, with the rise in HIV and AIDS. He said an estimated 32,000 Jamaicans are believed to be living with HIV, with about 50 per cent unaware of their status.
In addition, Mr. Spencer noted that 65 per cent of Jamaicans in the 15-74 age group use alcohol, while prevalence of cigarette smoking among the youth population was at 15 per cent. Mr. Spencer said an estimated 30 per cent of heart disease cases and 80 per cent of all lung cancers are associated with cigarette smoking.
To remedy this, he said the Cabinet has approved the drafting of public health regulations to bring Jamaica in full compliance with the provisions of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which the country ratified in 2005.
Another step being taken towards more effective health promotion is the development of a Nutrition Policy. This is being spearheaded by the Ministry of Agriculture and will form part of the overall health promotion policy.

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