MAJ launches Golden Jubilee symposium
The Medical Association of Jamaica (MAJ) last week launched its Golden Jubilee celebrations at the Terra Nova Hotel in St Andrew, with June 7-14 designated as the MAJ Golden Jubilee week. The oldest professional association in Jamaica, the MAJ was originally constituted as the first overseas branch of the British Medical Association in 1877.
In 1965, the MAJ was formed after intense lobbying for independence. Today, it is the umbrella organisation for all professional medical associations and societies in Jamaica and represents all specialities and includes medical students.
During the week of celebrations, June 7-14, the annually held symposium will continue under the theme 'Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases: The 21st Century Tsunami', with several areas of focus.
Continuing with its Healthy Population Campaign launched last year, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) will be examined from a national and regional perspective to promote wellness, and to reduce health risk behaviours of the Jamaican population. The MAJ has been collaborating with a number of stakeholders in this regard, including schools, churches, and corporates, as well as public sector bodies. Surgical and non-surgical treatments for NCDs will also be presented.
Technology and new innovations in medicine will be explored where aids to physicians and patients in the diagnosis, treatment and management of various diseases will be examined. The recurrent theme, the 'Business of Medicine' will facilitate a review of the non-medical aspects in the field of medicine including key areas such as customer service, financial planning and investments.
MAJ will also be hosting Journal Clubs, a series of specialised academic sessions to discuss local medical research. Physicians are invited from across the island and the region to participate by presenting their findings to their peers and to encourage rigorous discussion. Two evenings will be hosted to discuss surgical and non-surgical research. A medical ethics seminar will be hosted centering on controversial themes in medicine from a moral and ethical perspective.
On June 8, the MAJ will celebrate the Golden Jubilee Week with a gala and banquet at The Jamaica Pegasus Ballroom. Special MAJ Golden Jubilee Awards will be presented to persons and groups as well as a President's Award.
publication gives guidance on early diagnosis of
A new manual for healthcare providers, Early Diagnosis of Childhood Cancer, has been published by the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) to improve early detection of childhood cancer and help reduce child mortality in the Americas.
"The purpose of this manual is to improve the knowledge of primary health-care teams about the signs and symptoms of paediatric cancer, and about treatment referrals, to ensure that all children benefit from early diagnosis and timely treatment," said Dr Anselm Hennis, Director of the Department of Non-communicable Diseases and Mental Health at PAHO/WHO.
Cancer is among the leading causes of death in children over one year in many countries of the Americas. In 2012, some 29,000 children under 15 were diagnosed with cancer in the region. Leukaemia is the most common type of childhood cancer, followed by tumours of the central nervous system and Hodgkin's and non-Hodgkin lymphomas.
Paediatric cancer is not considered preventable, but early detection increases the chances it can be cured. In recent years, advances in treatment and new clinical protocols and guidelines have contributed to improved survival rates.
The most common type of cancer in children is acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, once considered a fatal disease. Today, its five-year survival rate is over 70 per cent.
The situation is different, however, for children in lower-income countries where cancer survival rates are 10-20 per cent lower than in higher-income countries. Reasons for these poorer outcomes include late diagnosis, limited access to treatment, and disease recurrence.
The new PAHO/WHO manual tells health professionals how to identify suspicious signs and symptoms. It provides comprehensive information on the most common cancers in children and the main risk factors for cancer. It teaches how to assess the possibility of cancer and gives health providers information and tools to manage children with possible cancer or with signs indicating they require immediate medical attention. It also provides information on follow-up and post-treatment care at the primary care level for children diagnosed with cancer.
Jamaica on track to end mother-child transmission of HIV
Jamaica is on track to be among the first countries in the world to reach the targets for the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
The country's situation will be confirmed later this month, once the Ministry of Health submits its country report to the Pan American Health Organization.
"Jamaica has made good progress, especially in the areas of the prevention of mother to child transmission and the availability and use of anti-retroviral drugs. The Government is moving towards ownership of the HIV Programme and has put in place several initiatives towards this, including the integration of the National HIV/STI Programme with the National Family Planning Board to create one sexual reproductive health authority, the purchase of ARVs through GOJ budget and undertaking a sustainability study of the national programme," said Minister of Health, Dr Fenton Ferguson.
"Under the leadership of Dr Kevin Harvey, the current permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health, Jamaica has come a far way in preventing the transmission of HIV to babies, from 10 per cent HIV transmission rate in 2004 to less than two per cent by 2012."
He acknowledged the significant contribution made by the Jamaica Paediatric, Perinatal and Adolescent HIV/AIDS (JaPPAAIDS) Programme under the leadership of Professor Celia Christie, as well as the support from the Technical Oversight Committee for EMTCT, which receives support from international partners; UNAIDS, UNICEF and PAHO.
This progress in preventing HIV among children joins other gains of the Jamaica AIDS response including a 43 per cent decline in AIDS-related deaths over the last decade and a 25 per cent reduction in new HIV infections. Jamaica has increasingly demonstrated interest through its leadership and investments in the programme to prevent HIV transmission to babies.
UWI research to improve nutrition for children in Mona
The University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona Social Services has embarked on an ambitious research project aimed at improving nutrition for more than 200 children, ages three to six years, in its neighbouring Mona Commons, St Andrew community.
The Kitchen Gardening project is expected to provide increased insight into the correlation between nutrition and academic performance amongst children in low-income environments. At the same time, it may offer an understanding of the economic barriers women face, and the effects on their children.
The initiative is based on the kitchen or backyard gardening model which has been successful in improving nutrition in other parts of the world. Under the project, kitchen gardens will be established in eight basic schools across five communities in the Mona Valley. Vegetables reaped from these gardens will feed into the school's breakfast and lunch programmes, providing a sustainable way to ensure good nutrition.
A key element of the Kitchen Gardening project is its holistic approach. Parents and teachers will be pivotal to the project's success and will assist in tracking the health benefits to the children. Additionally, parents will receive training in ways of improving their child's nutrition. The quantitative study will assess the children's progress for two years, monitoring this against their pre-test scores taken before joining the programme.
The project, aimed at children attending basic schools within the Mona Valley, emanates from the UWI's thrust to remain an engine of innovation and change in the wider society by leveraging practical applications from its regionally and internationally acclaimed research.
The Shalom Pre School, located in African Gardens, Greater August Town, has proved a successful pilot for the project, in partnership with the Institute of Agriculture, University of Tennessee in the United States.
Govt embarks on $54.4 million measles prevention campaign
The Government is to spend $54.4 million to implement a Measles Prevention Campaign, which will run from February 16 to May 8.
Minister of Health Dr Fenton Ferguson said the money will be used to procure additional doses of the Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR) vaccine as well as social mobilisation and communication.
"Approximately 195,000 children from one to six years of age will be targeted for vaccination as part of the campaign, which will run concurrently in all parishes in three phases," Ferguson said.
He informed that phase one will target children attending clinic for routine immunisation services; phase two will seek to capture children at basic, infant, primary schools, and day care centres. Phase three will focus on community outreach for those who were not immunised in phases one and two.
"The targeted population will be vaccinated unless they can provide documented proof of receiving two doses of the MMR vaccine and any other compulsory vaccine they may not have received," Ferguson said.
Although the campaign will largely focus on the provision of the MMR vaccine, including the booster dose, it will also provide other vaccines available in the public sector, which the children may have missed.
The main objectives of the campaign are: to capture those that have not been fully immunised for their age in order to improve the overall immunisation coverage in Jamaica; provide adequate protection in order to reduce the susceptible population for measles in children; and to have an impact on other vaccine-preventable diseases such as rubella.
Meanwhile, Ferguson said the immunisation statistics reveal that measles vaccination coverage has fluctuated from a low of 81 per cent in 2011 to a high of 94 per cent in 2013.
"The coverage for the second dose (booster) is even lower. The target coverage for both doses is 95 per cent or greater. What the data is telling us is that while parents make it a priority to ensure that children under two years are vaccinated the level of interest to immunise children two years and older is trending downwards," he said.
He informed that to close the gap, the Ministry of Health has taken the decision to offer the completed dosage of MMR vaccinations earlier.
"For children born July 2013 and after, we are now offering the booster dose of the MMR vaccine at 18 months old instead of 4-6 years. This is being done to close the existing gap and to get children immunised during the 'active' vaccination period when other vaccines are being offered and uptake is greater," Ferguson explained.
The Health Minister said everyone has a role to play to ensure that children are adequately vaccinated prior to entry to school, noting that this requirement ensures that disease outbreaks are prevented, thus protecting the lives of children and adults.
Under the country's 1986 Public Health Act, all children should be fully vaccinated by their first birthday and receive booster shots thereafter.
All children under the age of seven must be adequately vaccinated for their age prior to entry to school, which includes nursery and day care facilities. Failure to comply with the regulations can result in prosecution in a court of law.
The regulations only allow for exemption from vaccination based on medical reasons and not on religious or philosophical beliefs.
Measles signs and symptoms appear 10 to 14 days after exposure to the virus. These typically include: fever, dry cough, runny nose, sore throat, inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis), and skin rash.