KINGSTON, Jamaica – Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton says Jamaica is currently experiencing a transformation of its health sector that has not been seen since 1962 or maybe at any time in its history.
Tufton, who was addressing health practitioners and other stakeholders on day one of the 14th Annual National Health Research Conference at the AC Marriott in New Kingston on November 15, said that it is with this knowledge that he is confident the country is in a strong position going forward.
“I am of the view that Jamaica is experiencing perhaps the greatest transformation in public health from a number of perspectives than we have seen since 1962,” the minister argued.
“What is good is that we have all the variables to make it work. This is the first time since Independence we have allocated so much resources to rightsizing health against the health profile of the population,” he added.
Pointing to improvements in infrastructure and increased budgets, Tufton said there is a notable and “historic” increase in the number of permanent posts for doctors and other health workers – further proof of the transformation taking place.
He noted that while the gains have been commendable, “we still believe” the public health system can benefit from a willingness among stakeholders to embrace new ideas and innovative thinking.
Tufton also called for greater focus on advocacy to challenge those negative forces existing in and around the public health system, adding that “what I fear is that the research agenda is confined to traditional areas of research… a lot of times creating knowledge that is confirmatory or validating but not breaking new ground around the new paradigm of public health”.
“When you do a PhD, they say you must break new ground… they say you must be adding to the body of knowledge. I want to see us adding to the body of knowledge in a way that says ‘why not’ rather than ‘we should stick to this way’,” the minister added.
Tufton noted that people with comorbidities are at greater risk of even more severe illnesses and death, and that preliminary analysis of data on COVID-19 cases suggests that people with comorbidities are at significantly increased risk of death.
“Our vision for this event (14th Annual National Health Research Conference) sees us setting research priorities to guide what we do, enacting laws and policies to govern the conduct of research, increasing the capacity of the Ministry and other institutions to conduct the research needed for decision-making, and disseminating the results to varying audiences using a number of different research products,” he noted.
Tufton said the Ministry’s National Epidemiology Team and the Essential National Health Research Committee must be commended for facilitating what he termed a significant health conference of national importance.