Public health renewal

Public health renewal

Gov't provides 50 new vehicles to help combat vector-borne diseases

Observer staff reporter

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

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A total of 50 new vehicles were yesterday added to the fleet of the island's regional health authorities to help combat vector-borne diseases in what Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton said was part of the Government's effort at public health renewal.

“While we're focusing on dengue because it is now the current threat in terms of vector-borne diseases, and we have to deal with it I really want all of you to look at what we are doing today as a much bigger, broader theme of public health renewal, and the renewal of our infrastructure. This Government is on a mission to renew, to rebuild, and to make more effective our public health infrastructure,” Tufton said during the handing-over ceremony at Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre in St Andrew.

He said over the past three months the Government had acquired a total of 60 vehicles equipped with mounted foggers, at a cost of approximately $400 million. The remaining 10 vehicles are expected to be placed in the fleet soon.

“2019 was a significant manifestation of why we have to do more to protect the people of Jamaica as it relates to vector-borne diseases, and as it relates to our entire public health infrastructure. Last year we saw where nearly 1,700 of our people here in Jamaica were hospitalised; over 80 have died, because of mosquitoes and in this instance the Aedes aegypti,” the minister said. “If we don't renew to be more efficient, our people are going to become more threatened as the years progress.”

While presenting the keys to the country's four regional health authorities, Tufton pointed to some of the burdens faced by vector control workers that will be lifted by the new vehicles.

“So, the broken down vans in the garage, the hand foggers that are gashing and catching fire because they're really not suited for the tropics, and the vector worker driving in the back of the pickup truck at risk to themselves and to others, those days are done,” he said.

He pointed to another vector that will be tackled by the ministry rats.

“The reality is that leptospirosis is dangerous, and if infected, it can cost you your life,” he cautioned. “If you look at all the projections globally and the issues around climate change and the health profile of the world, you will see that these two vectors are going to become a much more clear and present danger to mankind. We cannot be business as usual in terms of the approach,” Tufton said.

He explained that the vehicles were only one part of a four-pronged approach to tackling public health risks, the others being engaging more temporary and permanent vector control workers; exploring new technologies to combat the evolution of vectors; and placing greater emphasis on public education.

Mayor of Kingston Delroy Williams said that the municipality was pleased by the investment in public health.

“We quickly recognise at the municipality [the value of] the seamless coordination of public agencies in problem solving,” he stated. “This is necessary because the problems confronting us are very complex, and the nature of complexity demands coordination. There is no one agency or public entity that can resolve those problems. I am really pleased at the approach of the ministry. I am very pleased that the Ministry of Health and Wellness has taken an aggressive approach to the issue of mosquito-borne diseases in our country.”

Medical officer of health for Kingston and St Andrew Dr Kimberly Myers, who received the vehicles on behalf of the regional health authorities, said: “Today's activities represent a major boost in the capacity of public health departments across the country. Health departments have been at the forefront of the response towards the management of several agro-viral, or mosquito-borne disease outbreaks for many years. These include past dengue outbreaks, malaria eradication, and recently, chikungunya and Zika.”

She continued: “Health departments will be afforded improved routine operations within our communities, respond to complaints, and better served distinct gatherings and national events. I am confident that I speak for all the health departments about the feeling of upliftment and renewed energy that will prevail once the new vehicles are in full operation.”

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