Government creates 10-year national health development plan
The Ministry of Health is moving this year to design a ten-year development plan to ensure the realignment of primary health care with the population growth and the shifts in burden of disease over the last three decades.
"It will require not only health to develop and implement this plan. It will require the invaluable input from you as key stake holders in making the plan an effective one," Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson said recently.
The ten-year plan follows Cabinet's approval of a Primary Health Care Renewal Policy, paving the way for the ministry to realign the primary health care network.
Dr Ferguson said the process of reaching the population in a more effective way had already been initiated through the renovation and refurbishing of 129 health centres at a cost of $660 million.
The improvements to these health centres will allow for more persons in the surrounding communities to access health care and better service delivery.
He added, "Once we are making strategic moves that improve availability, accessibility and affordability and quality of service we know that we are on a continuum called Universal Access to Health and Universal Health Coverage (UA/UHC)."
One of the key strategies to advance on the UA/UHC continuum will be an initiative to break down the barriers that keep some of the most vulnerable population at bay.
"Other strategies include the implementation of feasible measures to further reduce the cost of health care as informed by the island wide consultations on health financing that was led by the Ministry of Health; ongoing capacity building for health care workers and addressing the social determinants of health through inter-sectoral collaboration," noted the minister.
In reference to the World Health Organization (WHO)'s three dimensions of sustainable development, the health minister underscored that "the economic, social and environmental conditions within a country will impact on the health of our people and vice versa, the health status of our people is a determining factor for social, economic and environmental conditions."
He said while advocating for persons and organisations across sectors to get on board in advancing the journey towards improved health for everyone, the fact that unhealthy lifestyle choices is contributing to 70 per cent of deaths in the country could not be ignored.
"That is the amount attributed to non-communicable diseases (NCDs). It means that we have to 'get with it' and make better choices, such as eating healthier, doing physical activity, not smoking and not engaging in harmful use of alcohol. These are the behavioural factors that aid significantly in preventing and controlling the NCDs," he stressed.
Ferguson also underscored the importance of schools in pushing key messages of healthy choices to the youth, adding that the Ministry of Health was working closely with the Ministry of Education to establish all their schools as health promoting schools. Consequently, schools will be adopting initiatives that reinforce the healthier choices in all aspects of health.
Minister Ferguson is clear that "until we spend more time and money in preventative behaviour, we will always be treating."
He is therefore heartened that this year, for the first time, the budget for Health Promotion and Prevention has moved from $20 million to $271 million. He sees this as significant as "it sends a message that all our programmes and plans as it relates to health must have a strong health promotion and education component."
The National Strategic and Action plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases 2013-2018 plan approved by Cabinet, has a significant focus on multi-sectoral health promotion initiatives. By 2025, the ministry hopes to reduce the incidence of NCDs that is increasingly affecting all ages, by 25 per cent.