A Health profile of Jamaica
An overview

My own little research on the health profile of Jamaica really helped to broaden my horizon about my country.

Now, what if I tell you that Jamaica ranked 53rd in the world in the area of health. This World Health Organization's (WHO) report came with much congratulation and kudos. This was even more significant considering the very limited resources we have here.

France was named the country that provided the best overall health care, followed by Italy, Spain, Oman, Austria and Japan. The United States health system which spends a higher portion of its gross domestic product than any other country, but was ranked at 37.

Countries were also rated according to the different components of the performance index based on responsiveness, fairness of financial contribution, overall level of health (based on a measure of disability-adjusted life expectancy or DALE) and the distribution of health in the population.

Jamaica's life expectancy is about 74 years old.

Speaking on the health profile of Jamaica, Dr. Trevor McCartney, in an article in the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper, said 'Jamaica has a comprehensive health service with a highly developed primary health care system provided through a network of 331 Government health centres and 24 hospitals'.

He continued by stating that 'over 90 per cent of hospitals beds, are in the public sector. Private health centres, and an increasing number of private family practitioners, have increased considerably in recent years.

This too has had a significantly positive impact on the standard of primary care offered across the island.'

Today, Jamaica is free from small pox, polio-myelitis, yellow fever and yaws, and the incidence of pertosis, hooping cough, tuberculosis, diphtheria and tetanus is very low. Measles is on the verge of elimination.

Malaria was virtually eliminated as well until the recent outbreak which has been controlled and isolated.

Over the past decade considerable progress has been made in controlling vaccine preventable diseases and eliminating polio-myelitis, measles and rubella, including congenital rubella, syndrome, rates of infectious syphilis, congenital syphilis and gonorrhea, although we are worried about the rising incidence of chlamydia, herpes, and the HIV epidemic.

But we cannot objectively define a health profile of Jamaica without noting the challenges:

'There remain several challenges, Dr. McCartney added: Infrastructure and maintenance problems remains; shortages of drugs and medical supplies are common and development programmes are curtailed due to budgetary constraints.'

Also, personnel problems continue to be a major concern in the health team as well. Nevertheless, they are striving to produce the level of health care that the people expect and as I earlier reported is commendable.

In 2006, the Jamaica Health Office opened at the Consulate General of Jamaica in New York (Manhattan). Its role initially was to act as a clearing house for civic, community outreach organizations, corporations and professionals wishing to assist Jamaica in the area of health care. This project should, no doubt, help to alleviate the deficiencies and create an even better health profile for Jamaica next time.

posted: 6/2007

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