The art of health is one with which I have been intimately associated since birth. My mother, a public health dental nurse, was stationed at the Mandeville Public Hospital for years, and then her unit was moved to the new health department when it opened.
During those "hospital years", every day after school I would roam the wards and halls, engage nurses in enquiring conversations about their work and chatting with patients that sat on two worn wooden benches that were placed strategically to capture, maximally, the morning and evening shade.
The health department for me was another wonderland - doctors nurses, public health inspectors, health aids, social workers, secretaries, patients, and most important, my mother, working in
unison at beehive pace to ensure the health of their constituents.
To this day, that is exactly how I visualise our health sector needing to work, all partners doing their part to ensure that the welfare of our people is kept intact, no least of effort needing to be exerted by the people themselves.
Our successes are numerous, but we have also been hit hard this year: a zero-immune Chikungunya population, coupled with inadequate vector control, left a sinking feeling in my stomach, plus budget cuts that would make even Mother Teresa weep, not at all helped by an IMF agreement that seems to have the economy in a vice-grip unless Jamaica starts producing.
The health system, thankfully, is held together by a cadre of committed workers who utilise anything at hand to save lives. Our social health indices seem not to want to budge either. Teenage pregnancy and child rape persist at unacceptable
levels; attitudes and values slip away as the young and old slip into risky sexual situations. May I dare say that only this year did I learn of a venue ... not far from my place of work, where live sex happens onstage! What?! Where?!
MUCH MORE TO DO
While we will continue to advocate the stamping out of deliberately deviant behaviour, we will continue to uphold the divine in 2015. We also hope for the widespread access to health care; the tireless procurement of medications and supplies by the National Health Fund; public education programmes for protected sex; sexual health education for all; HIV/AIDS knowledge increases; and a decrease in the discrimination against the HIV-infected.
Do we need to do more? Yes. Planning our families must be priority. Families are responsible for nurturing and securing our children into productive educated adulthood. Research shows that family stability decreases the probability of adolescents
engaging in risky sexual
behaviour and criminality.
Jamaican men and women must think first and choose wisely their life partners and partner parent for their kids. Pregnancy must be at the fore as an outcome of even the most frivolous sexual tryst. I look forward to continued discussions on the woman's right to self-determine and the mythical concept of males being raped by women.
n Dr Sandra Knight is chairman of the National Family Planning Board.