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Illness to wellness – Changing Jamaicans mindset about healthcare

Published:Tuesday | July 3, 2018 | 12:00 AMBenjamin Cooke/Contributor
Healthy diet consists of fruits and vegetables
Exercise is key

It is imperative that disease prevention and health promotion become greater priorities in our health care. The majority of money spent in healthcare is focused on treatment and care rather than health prevention and promotion, which will no doubt enhance the lives of Jamaicans. Preventing a disease before it starts is critical to helping people live longer, healthier lives and to keep health cost down.


n According to a study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2016, of the top 10 global causes of death, six are non-communicable diseases.

n As it stands, Ischaemic heart disease and stroke are the world's biggest killers, accounting for a combined 15.2 million deaths in 2016. These diseases have remained the leading causes of death globally in the last 15 years.

n Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease claimed 3.0 million lives

n Lung cancer (along with trachea and bronchus cancers) caused 1.7 million deaths.

n Diabetes killed 1.6 million people, up from less than one million in 2000.

n Deaths resulting from dementia more than doubled between 2000 and 2016, making it the fifth leading cause of global deaths in 2016 compared to 14th in 2000.


The aforementioned is true, as this information reflects the current trends in Jamaica.

n Statistics show that NCDs, otherwise called chronic lifestyle diseases, contribute to 70 per cent of mortality in Jamaica, with 34 per cent classified as premature, that is, before age 70 years.

n Circulatory system diseases are the most prevalent (25 per cent), with similar male and female prevalence of hypertension.

n The prevalence of diabetes is higher among women (9.3 per cent) than men (6.4 per cent).

n The prevalence of overweight persons is 59.1 per cent, including 27.2 per cent who are obese.


In examining the healthcare system in other countries, it is noted that Japan has a comprehensive system of screening, tracking and follow-up. Employers are required to conduct annual health screenings for every employee; dependents are covered by corporate schemes. Those not covered by employers receive screening reminders from their municipal government.

There is much that Jamaica can learn in an effort to improve primary health, the result of which can be a first-class healthcare system in a Third-World country.

To achieve an effective primary health care system, there must be a collaborative effort between all government ministries/agencies, the communities and the private sector.

The idea is that primary healthcare programmes do not rely on any one entity, but seek to utilise all available resources in order to heighten the awareness and the involvement of the citizen in healthcare.

Focus must be placed on, but not limited to immunisation, mass-screening programmes, garbage disposal, occupational health and programmes geared toward the aged, disabled and the mentally ill.

The truth is that well crafted and executed strategies will help to stymie rising health costs, ensure children grow up in communities, homes and families that nurture their healthy development, and create an adult population that is productive and healthy.