Broken homes, families fuelling deviant behaviour, says Tufton

Senior staff reporter

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

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HEALTH and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton has said the deviant behaviours being displayed by some young Jamaicans are not indicative of a national security problem, but of nurturing gone wrong from infancy.

“I really still believe in the traditional view that it takes a village to raise a child…I want to say to Jamaicans, in keeping with the adverse consequences of modern times, that we need to get back to the days when the community can intervene in a way that is in the best interest of a child who needs guidance. Part of the challenge we face these days in Jamaica is that we have too many broken homes and broken families,” Dr Tufton told a gathering of health care practitioners from across the island during the National Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative Certification Ceremony and Launch of the National Infant and Young Child Feeding Network at Courtleigh Auditorium in the Corporate Area yesterday.

The health and wellness minister's comments come even as dismayed Jamaicans, over the past few weeks, have been privy to troubling videos on social media showing students using expletives, openly engaging in sexually suggestive dancing, and hurling abusive words at teachers.

“We have a tradition of single-parent homes. I am the product of a single-parent home, but during those times the community would engage, and if you see a child doing something wrong you would feel you have an obligation to correct them. Now, if you ever try, between the child and the family, you are lucky if you escape a beating. I am saying to you, there are some values and attitudes we have to try and get back to,” the health minister said to applause from the audience.

Continuing, Dr Tufton said: “I really do believe that some of the deviant behaviours we have today are because we have lost it at that early stage. Public health has a role to play in that regard; it is not just a national security issue, public health has a role to play and we have a network, and we must start from the early stages of upbringing.

“The benefits of the programme, and in particular the network, go well beyond just breastfeeding issues, it is about how you help to create an atmosphere that drives values and attitudes and behavioural practices in the development of a community, starting with the very young,” he noted further.

Dr Tufton, in lauding the initiative launched by the World Health Organization in 1991 to promote exclusive breastfeeding of infants for the first six months, followed by complimentary foods and continued breastfeeding for two years and beyond, said Jamaicans would do well to “get back to basics”.

“We really are challenged as a people to start looking seriously at how we get back to basics around the critical components of nurturing and developing our young minds, because they are the ones who will take over from us, and that's going to be how our legacy will be defined, ultimately, in life. The truth is, we need to get back to basics and we need to embrace the traditional approaches as it relates to lactating mothers [and] development of our newborns. There is very little technology that is going to change that reality, that the breast is...still the best,” he pointed out

Noting that breastfeeding is a universal solution that has proven to improve the survival of women and children around the world, helping to prevent malnutrition in all its forms and ensuring food security for infants and young children, Dr Tufton urged women to look beyond the impact on their physique.

“I know that the mothers sometimes are also overly conscious about [how they will look]. I've heard comments that suckling for two years can be stress and wear and tear on the hardware, but…mothers, supported by fathers, have an important role to play in recognising the value. I don't see any other more important initiative or objective than go ensure that your child/children have the best possible care every day,” the health minister contended, adding, “If you ignore those two first years, for whatever reason, you place your child at a disadvantage, and that is scientifically proven.”

He further urged parents to look at the long-term benefits of raising children who are properly nourished.

“I tell people every day, the best legacy in life you can inherit is bragging rights over your children. If you raise your child in a way where they are properly developed, and where they come [out] to something in life, even if they don't give you anything based on what you invest in them, you see if you can sit down on your verandah and boast off about yuh pickney dem, you know how good that feel? That is better than a million dollars,” he said to applause from the audience, some saying 'Yes' in concert.

In the meantime, he gave credit to the facilities who had gained certification so far, as well as the network of 38 support groups islandwide, which have been formed to provide practical care and support to mothers and caregivers.

“The nurses and staff at these facilities have to work tirelessly, sometimes for years, to meet the standards of certification, and we really have to give credit,” Dr Tufton said.

So far, Alexandria Community Hospital in St Ann and Princess Margaret Hospital in St Thomas have been certified as baby-friendly. Yesterday, Port Antonio Hospital in Portland, Lionel Town Hospital in Clarendon, and the Port Maria Hospital in St Mary joined the ranks and were presented with their certification. The health minister said 14 other hospitals are currently making every effort to join these other facilities as being certified baby-friendly.

Yesterday, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) representative Mariko Kagoshima, in her remarks, said the occasion did not mark an end to a process, but rather the beginning of sustained efforts for those hospitals that have attained this achievement.

“UNICEF looks forward to continuing to work with all of you and those hospitals now working towards certification, to expand the support to families to ensure that breastfeeding is exclusive and sustained for six months. We are aware that there is a need for a greater effort at the community level and so we are also pleased to support the ministry's work to equip health care workers to offer that critical support through the National Infant and Young Child Feeding Network,” she said.

She said, too, that the next step must be “to work with the private sector”.

“Women need more flexible working policies as they breastfeed; they need time and a private space to express and safely store breast milk to take home to their babies. Additionally, companies that market breast milk substitutes must engage in the ethical promotion of their products and adhere to the International Code of Marketing to which Jamaica is a signatory. We are on a solid path, but we must complete the course,” Kagoshima added.

She said UNICEF continues to work with the National Family Planning Board to implement the Reproductive Health Survey and the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey.

“From this data, we will be able to update the available data on exclusive breastfeeding rates,” she told the group.

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