Anastasia Cunningham, News Coordinator
Revealing that non-communicable diseases (NCDs) account for more than 56 per cent of deaths in Jamaica, of which cancer represents 20 per cent, Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson says he has placed cancer care as a top priority for his administration.
"I am a strong advocate for the development and improvement of cancer-treatment services in Jamaica and a reduction in the prevalence of non-communicable diseases because cancer ranks very high in the top-10 leading causes of death in Jamaica," Ferguson said.
"It is costing the Government of Jamaica approximately US$170 million annually to treat NCDs."
The minister was speaking on Tuesday during a press conference at the Planning Institute of Jamaica in St Andrew to welcome the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)/Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (imPACT) missions team to Jamaica.
The team, which is in the island on a five-day visit on invitation from the minister, will carry out a comprehensive assessment of the country's cancer-control capacity in the areas of cancer-control planning, cancer information, prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment, palliative care, training and civil-society activities.
The team will also assist in Jamaica's efforts to seek to reintroduce nuclear medicine technology to enhance its diagnostic and treatment capabilities for cancer and other chronic diseases.
Noting that 40 per cent of cancer deaths could be prevented, Dr Rolando Camacho, head of imPACT, said cancer has become a very important health problem worldwide, with most of the persons diagnosed and dying of cancer living in developing countries "which is why we are here".
EYES ON REDUCING NCDs
Thanking the team for accepting the invitation, Ferguson said he hoped Jamaica would be better for the visit in a real way.
"I hope that the assessment that you will be doing over the next couple of days will represent a quantum shift in how we deal with cancer care in Jamaica," said Ferguson.
The minister said at last year's World Health Assembly, Jamaica made a commitment to reduce NCDs by 25 per cent by 2025 and "we intend to do everything in our power to meet that target".
Ferguson added: "I believe it will take a national effort, including Government, private sector, the NGO (non-governmental organisation) community, faith-based organisations, community-based organisations, the diaspora, and each of us, to fulfil this mission."
The imPACT missions team was scheduled to visit the Kingston Public Hospital, Cornwall Regional, Mandeville Regional, National Public Health Lab, Hope Institute, among other public as well as private cancer-care centres, before leaving the island today.