Speech

This year’s Sectoral debate has saved the best wine for last! The fact is that the Ministry of Health won the Award for Best Ministry for the year 2005/6 based on a Client Survey for a Competition run by the Cabinet Office, as part of the Public Sector Modernization Programme (PSMP).
I was indeed highly favoured when the Most Honourable Portia Simpson Miller, Prime Minister asked me to be a part of her Cabinet and to serve as Minister of Health. I thank you Madam Prime Minister for entrusting me with the best Ministry. Indeed I am privileged to be part of the unfolding of a new chapter in our political history to serve in the cabinet of the Most Honourable Portia Simpson Miller the first woman elected to lead the Jamaican Government. I also thank the former Prime Minister, the Most Hon. P. J. Patterson for the opportunity that he gave me to contribute to my country at the ministerial level, which has prepared me to take on my new responsibilities.
Of course I wish to place on record my appreciation to the former Minister of Health, The Hon. John Junor. The work that you have done and your achievements will make my work easier.
I take the opportunity to thank the staff in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security. I am grateful for the years of support that I received, from Permanent Secretary Mr. Alvin McIntosh, the senior directorate and the rest of the staff. I thank the Trade Union Movement, the Jamaica Employers Federation and the many partners, local and international with whom I worked.
I thank the staff of my new Ministry for the warm welcome that I received. I am grateful for the demonstration of commitment from the Permanent Secretary, Dr. Grace Allen Young, the rest of the senior directorate, as well as the staff of the Ministry of Health.
There are many health professionals, who have been at the forefront of the sector for several years and who have played an outstanding role in the Ministry’s development.
On a very sad note we regret the death only last week of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Barrington Wint. Dr. Wint was a stalwart and pioneer who served the Ministry of Health since 1973 in different capacities but over the last 15 years as Chief Medical Officer. He gave an unparalleled contribution to the International, Regional and the Country’s public health services. During the period 199 — he served as advisor to the CARICOM Secretariat. Dr Wint was recently awarded the Order of Distinction, Commander Class for his distinguished services to the health of the nation.
I also acknowledge the contribution of Dr. Deanna Ashley who retired recently from the Ministry, after 30 years in the public service.
Our staff in the Regional Health Authorities continue to make an outstanding contribution and are amazing in the work that they do day after day to keep Jamaicans healthy. Our country owes a debt of gratitude to them.
Mr. Speaker:
I would not be here were it not for the consistent support of my constituents in Clarendon. I am grateful that they continue to demonstrate confidence in my ability to represent their interests. I will not let you down. To my personal staff, I appreciate your efforts and the contribution that you continue to make toward my day-to-day operations.
Last but by no means least; I thank my family for being my rock and my mainstay. I keep going day after day because I am assured of your love and support.
Mr. Speaker:
This maiden presentation in my capacity as Minister of Health comes at a time when there is much emphasis on wealth creation and on the need to increase productivity in order to move Jamaica forward. The role of health in creating wealth is well accepted by the general population – many persons say “Health is Wealth.”
We also accept that a healthy population is an outcome of sustainable development and that health is an effective means of achieving sustainable development – one cannot happen without the other.
Today, in 2006 we can boast of our achievements in health; that we are a healthy nation, free of many of the diseases that continue to plague countries similar to ours. Some of these are yellow fever poliomyelitis and measles. Over the last two years for example there have been outbreaks of poliomyelitis and measles in various parts of the world. Jamaica however has not experienced any such outbreaks because of our vigilance and childhood immunization programmes.
Life Expectancy
Jamaicans continue to enjoy high life expectancy despite the challenges of HIV/AIDS and violence that have resulted in a reduction from 75 to 70.8 years according to the 2005 Human Development Report. This still places us ahead of countries such as Trinidad and Tobago at 69.9, St. Kitts Nevis, Peru and Thailand at 70, Brazil at 70.5 and the Dominican Republic at 67.2 years. According to the Report, Jamaica is ranked above the average life expectancy of developing countries, which stands at 65.0 years.
The Human Poverty Index that measures deprivation in three basic dimensions such as a long and healthy life, knowledge and a decent standard of living, ranks Jamaica at 21 of 103 developing countries. We are one of four CARICOM countries ranked in the top 25 of the Index.
Our successes can be attributed in a large measure to the courage, commitment and competence of the Jamaican health workers, to the health policies of successive governments and several kinds of partnerships.
GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE
The reality however is that in recent years there have been many global imperatives that have challenged us as a nation to maintain the health and wellness status that we have enjoyed. Some of these were highlighted by the WHO’s 59th World Health Assembly in May 2006.
They included the migration of health staff, liberalization of trade, fuel prices, international travel and the continued risk of disease spread, climatic changes, the threat of natural and man-made disasters and the use of illicit substances.
We must be proactive to formulate interventions to deal with these global issues. For example many parts of the world are experiencing outbreaks of Avian Influenza and this is a threat to Jamaica’s health and food security that we have taken seriously. The Ministry of Health has completed a revised multi-sectoral Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Plan. This has been developed within the guidelines and protocols established by the World Health Organization/ Pan American Health Organization (WHO/PAHO) with the various inputs.
As part of the response to sustainable development, the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were adopted by Jamaica. Six of the MDGs are directly related to health and represent some of the most important outcomes that sustainable development should achieve: i.e.
Fewer women dying in childbirth;
More children surviving the early years of life;
Dealing with the catastrophe of HIV/AIDS;
Making sure people have access to life-saving drugs;
Better health – in all its forms – making a major contribution to the reduction of poverty.
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