Jamaicans urged to take charge of their health, do regular screenings
KINGSTON, Jamaica – Jamaicans are being urged to take charge of their well-being and to make regular check-ups a vital part of their routine in light of the increasing incidents of lifestyle-related ailments.
The call comes amidst a growing concern that many Jamaicans are unaware of their health status and are walking around with ailments such as diabetes and hypertension, making themselves susceptible to hospitalisation or even death.
In a public awareness campaign, dubbed ‘Know Your Numbers’, the Ministry of Health and Wellness has earmarked some 500,000 screening tests for the 2023/2024 fiscal year to provide Jamaicans with the opportunity to know what they are vulnerable to and what they need to do to correct this through lifestyle changes.
“In response to lifestyle diseases and premature mortality, the Ministry has introduced our Know Your Numbers campaign to encourage yearly health screening and reduce illness among the population,” Health and Wellness Minister, Dr Christopher Tufton said following a recent visit to Falmouth, Trelawny.
The minister repeated the call in a visit to Junction, St Elizabeth on November 24, revealing that during the visit by the health team to Falmouth where 1,600 people were examined, 450 did multiple tests for non-communicable diseases and 100 of them had to be referred to a medical doctor for follow-up examinations.
“What it meant in practical terms is that there were people there who didn’t know they were diabetic and found out; they didn’t know they were hypertensive and they found out. They probably wouldn’t know until they get a stroke or a heart attack and they end up in the accident and emergency ward, which is why this programme was created. A 30 per cent pickup above normality in a population is alarmingly scary,” the minister argued.
“It means that probably 20 to 30 per cent of us are walking around just on the cusp of a catastrophe. And where do you end up? In the hospital. So, we have to promote screening as we are doing now through ‘Know Your Numbers’.”
The minister said that with the reality that too many Jamaicans are “walking sick people” because they do not know their health status, the Ministry’s target is to get 500,000 screening tests done by next year, adding that “to achieve this, we intend to bolster offerings of health checks and promote health screening in our hospitals and clinics across the country”.
“Screening will become a routine operating procedure through our primary reform programme, particularly our Life-Stage approach. This means, once you enter a facility for any concern or examination, you will be provided with a health screening,” Dr Tufton added.
Tufton said that knowing one’s numbers for essential health indicators, such as blood pressure and blood sugar levels, is crucial for Jamaicans to lead healthier lives and combat the growing burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), adding that by empowering individuals through public awareness campaigns, the Ministry intends to support Jamaicans in taking control of their health and making informed decisions.
He noted that strengthening healthcare systems and prioritising preventive measures will contribute to a healthier, more prosperous nation.
With a collective effort, Jamaicans can give themselves a fighting chance at a longer, healthier, and more enjoyable life, Tufton said.
He pointed out that through the Regional Health Authorities, the Ministry will repurpose its COVID-19 mobile units to offer mobile screening services across the island, including through community outreach programmes.
“Increased efforts will be made to target the most vulnerable among the population, such as people living in remote, difficult, underserved and unreached areas, to assess and provide management for illnesses,” the minister further said, adding that core services to be offered include screening for body mass index, hypertension, diabetes, vision, cholesterol, and HIV/Syphilis.
“Expanded services will include ECG, prostate cancer, breast cancer, cervical cancer, colorectal cancer, dementia and frailty, and immunisation. In addition to clinics and health centres, we will be taking screening activities to you in your place of work, play and in communities.
“Mobile health clinics will be deployed to each parish and our primary healthcare professionals will partner with community leaders and civic groups such as churches, schools, corporate offices, Members of Parliament, and community-based associations. We will take screening to you and encourage you to get screened, as this could save your life,” he added.