Thu | Apr 27, 2017

Jamaica crafting 10-year plan towards universal access to health and universal health coverage

Published:Thursday | April 30, 2015 | 4:00 AMAnastasia Cunningham
Ian Allen/Photographer Dr Kevin Harvey (centre), permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health, speaks with Mark Connolly, UNICEF representative, and Dr Amalia Del Riego, chief of the Health Systems Unit, Health Systems Services, PAHO/WHO, during yesterday's Universal Access to Health and Universal Health Coverage High Dialogue, held at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston.

As part of its goal towards achieving universal access to health and universal health coverage, this year Jamaica will begin steps toward crafting a 10-year development plan for the sector.

The plan will be developed through Cabinet's approval of the Primary Health Care Renewal Policy.

"This will result in a quantum shift in the way we offer health care in Jamaica," Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson announced yesterday.

Speaking at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston, during the opening ceremony of a two-day, high-level meeting on universal access to health and universal health coverage with representatives from several international health authorities and agencies, he said this was the latest measure in a number of steps Jamaica has already taken towards achieving that goal.

"Jamaica has been putting the necessary measures in place towards universal health coverage and will continue to do so within our limitations and resources and at the pace that best suits the needs of our people," Ferguson stated.

Among the measures he

outlined that are already in place were decentralisation of the health-management structure; increased access to pharmaceuticals; renewal of the primary health-care infrastructure; improvement of the secondary health-care infrastructure; increased equipment in the health sector and the establishment of the National Health Fund.

"The health of the nation determines the productivity of our citizens and the productivity of our citizens will guide the pace at which we move to make improvements to several aspects of our society," Ferguson said.

multi-sectoral input

Acknowledging that achieving universal access to health and universal health coverage required strong multi-sectoral input, intervention and approach, the minister emphasised that although it was part of the country's Vision 2030 goals, it was not a destination but an essential journey on which Jamaica must embark, bearing in mind that health was dynamic and diverse.

Jamaica is the first English-speaking Caribbean island to be visited for this exercise by the international health authorities and agencies' representatives.

The two-day consultation on Jamaica achieving universal access to health and universal health coverage examined a number of issues.

Dr Noreen Jack, Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)/

World Health Organization (WHO) representative for Jamaica, said this was a historic moment for the country and its people.

"Last year September, the member states of the Pan American Health Organization adopted the resolution of universal access to health and universal health coverage at the directing council meeting in Washington, DC, (United States). Countries expressed commitment to embark on a process to initiate national high-level dialogue and develop a national road map towards advancing universal access to health and universal health coverage. Jamaica is the first of the English-speaking countries to move forward with this process," said Jack.

She added: "Universal access to health and universal health coverage is one of the most powerful policy options to enable health to all persons, irrespective of gender, ethnicity, disabilities and sexual orientation in a context of equity and human rights."

Jack said PAHO was committed to journeying with Jamaica towards achieving universal access to health and universal health coverage.

anastasia.cunningham@gleanerjm.com