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Jamaica to develop universal health strategy

Published:Thursday | July 17, 2014 | 12:00 AM

WITH A mandate from the World Health Organisation (WHO) to develop a strategy for universal health coverage (UHC) for Jamaica, the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), on Tuesday hosted a high-level consultation with stakeholders to formulate a road map for the country, held at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston.

Minister of Health Dr Fenton Ferguson said with the 2008 implementation of the no-user fee policy in public health facilities, Jamaica was already on its way to be in line with world trends for free, effective health care, especially for the vulnerable.

"The previous administration's removal of user fees was a step in the right direction. However, this decision lacked the due diligence necessary to make it a successful and more beneficial move," he said.

"Despite this, the Government believes that the most vulnerable Jamaicans should not be required to pay out of pocket at point of service. The transformation of the health sector that is taking place right now is in line with our universal health coverage goals."

Build systems of excellence

Ferguson added, "I want to make it clear that this process will not be completed overnight. This is a journey, not a destination. We, therefore, continue to build systems of excellence in the health sector that will see our population having access to quality and affordable health care at all levels."

Under WHO's definition, universal health coverage implies that "all people have access, without discrimination, to nationally determined sets of the promotive, preventative, curative and rehabilitative basic health services needed, and essential, safe, affordable, effective and quality medicines, while ensuring that the use of these services does not expose the users to financial hardship, with a special emphasis on the poor, vulnerable and marginalised segments of the population."

Dr Carissa Etienne, director of PAHO, noted that "each country needs to find its own way to universal health coverage based on its own particular historic, social and economic context, promoting a larger social dialogue. Each country can do something to move towards UHC".

Jamaica is expected to present its strategy report, which will include suggestions, comments and contributions, at the PAHO/WHO Directing Council in September. However, before that, the country report should be sent to the PAHO regional office by the end of the week.