In another two years, key stakeholders in the health sector will be equipped with informed data on eating patterns of Jamaicans aged 16-60, courtesy of a National Health Fund (NHF) $14.6 million survey being undertaken by the University of Technology (UTech).
Under the project called JA-LIVITY, spearheaded by the College of Health Sciences at UTech, several entities dealing with health promotion and protection will be able to access information on the food consumption trends and nutritional status of the population.
It will also aid in deepening the understanding of the nutritional status and micronutrient deficiencies of the groups to be studied, and will be crucial data to the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Agriculture, the food manufacturing industry, and the Ministry of Finance and Planning, among others.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the NHF, Everton Anderson, says health research is an important tool for comprehensive, integrated and effective interventions in health care, and his agency is always open to fund such projects.
“In the planning of health promotion programmes and campaigns, the use of research is critical. We cannot plan such programmes in a vacuum, and so we welcome this research, that will be valuable to us, as well as our parent Ministry, and other agencies,” Mr. Anderson tells JIS News.
Director of Dietetics and Nutrition at UTech, Ava Simpson, says given the rapid growth in the number of persons suffering from obesity and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs), a need exists for evidence-based information on the food consumption of the population, and factors that drive eating patterns.
The Director explains that the information is needed to buttress the formulation of policy, guide clinical decisions, and to “positively impact Jamaica’s response to the burgeoning obesity problem through research, and wellness solutions.”
She points out that consumption patterns and trends of the population will be surveyed at the individual level, as well as the quality of foods eaten, to calculate intake of energy, nutrients and other components of the foods eaten.
To boost the reach of the campaign to target groups, two wellness centres will be set up, one for the urban areas, and the other for persons in rural communities.
Dean of the College, Dr. Ellen Campbell-Grille, says the project is multi-disciplinary, with participation by all in the department. “We are very proud for the confidence that the National Health Fund has bestowed in us,” she tells JIS News.
The National Health Fund was established to provide financial support to the national healthcare system to improve its effectiveness and the health of the Jamaican population through two categories of benefits – individual and institutional.
The individual benefits include assistance to persons in the purchase of specific prescription drugs used in the treatment and management of designated chronic illnesses. The agency also conducts public education drives to educate the public about chronic illness prevention and management.
Persons seeking individual benefits must be certified by a registered private or public doctor, with one or more of the specified medical conditions, and register with the agency. Once approved, the beneficiary is issued with an NHF card and will be able to get assistance with the purchase of drugs from approved participating pharmacies.
The UTech College of Health Sciences conducts researches, which address and provide solutions to healthcare problems in the country and region. The College comprises three schools – Caribbean School of Nursing, School of Pharmacy and School of Allied Health and Wellness.
The college offers a wide range of graduate and undergraduate courses to health professionals for the local, regional and global markets in areas such as Pharmacy, Nursing, Dietetics and Nutrition, Medical Technology, Child and Adolescent Development, Health Information Technology, Health Administration and Complementary Medicine.