Researchers to present findings at national health conference

Friday, August 10, 2018

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RESEARCH in critical areas of health, which have the potential to inform Government policy, will be showcased at the 2018 National Health Research Conference from November 22 to 23.

The two-day event will take place at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston.

Director of the Epidemiological Research and Data Analysis Unit at the Ministry of Health, Dr Andriene Grant, tells JIS News that focus is being placed on research in four main areas — oral health; intentional and unintentional injuries; non-communicable diseases (NCDs), featuring cancers; and family planning.

She notes that other high-quality research findings outside of the focus areas will be considered.

Dr Grant says that the four areas of emphasis seek to address the leading causes of sickness and death in Jamaica.

The objective is to provide important information about disease trends and risk factors, outcomes of treatment or public health interventions, patterns of care, and the use and cost of health care.

“We are trying to emphasise that these areas place a great burden on the health system in terms of morbidity and mortality, and with individuals understanding their role in prevention, there can be less drain on the health system,” Dr Davis argues.

She notes that in the case of NCDs, for example, heightening awareness of risk can help to reduce and prevent illnesses.

“If we look at our risk factors… some of these conditions could be prevented,” she adds.

Researchers have until September 14 to submit their abstracts or theses. Submissions will be reviewed by a committee at the ministry and selected for oral or poster presentation based on a grading scheme.

The abstract should be no more than 250 words and must be of relevance to the Jamaican health sector.

Emphasis will be placed on the ability of the research to impact programmes and influence policy in the Health Ministry.

The scientific soundness of the research will also be evaluated, which includes objectives that are clearly stated, and a methodology that is adequate to answer the stated intents.

Dr Grant tells JIS News that prizes will be awarded for the best oral, poster and student presentations, with a special award for the research most likely to impact policy.

Abstracts will only be accepted via e-mail at Receipt will be acknowledged within three days of submission, after which enquiries can be made through e-mail, or telephone 876-633-8157.

Cover letters are to accompany all abstracts to indicate that the authors have agreed to the submissions, and give their permission for the work to be published in the National Health Research Conference booklet. Further information can be obtained from the ministry.

The director notes that registration for the conference is free of cost, and participants have the opportunity to earn Continuing Medical Education credits for several categories of health professionals.

Since its inception nine years ago, the conference has been attracting research work from educational institutions and private researchers.

Last year, more than 430 individuals attended the two-day event, and Dr Grant says it has been growing in strength.

“It has generated interest, particularly among public-sector workers,” she tells JIS News.

Dr Grant stresses the need for more researchers to document their work in order to support the development of sound policies and practices to improve public health in Jamaica.

She says that the Ministry's Policy Division will be giving greater attention to high-quality research and providing exposure to such work through various media.

In a move geared at deepening the research agenda, the Ministry, in 2017, provided three grants of up to $1.5 million each for postgraduate students at Northern Caribbean University; University of Technology; and the University of the West Indies, Mona, to undertake studies related to the top-10 health priority areas of the Government.

These are universal access to health and universal health coverage; cancers, including cervical, breast, colon, prostate and their general outcomes and epidemiology; successful interventions for the treatment of cardiovascular conditions, including hypertension; factors affecting and the impact of violence and injuries (including intentional and unintentional injuries); and neglected tropical diseases and emerging and re-emerging diseases such as Zika, chikungunya and Ebola; financial sustainability for health; estimates of disease burden; the cost of disease burden; diabetes mellitus, including its effect on pregnancy; and the social determinants of infant, child and adolescent health (including mortality).

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