Increased support for persons with sickle cell diseaseFriday, June 18, 2021
KINGSTON, Jamaica — Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton, says people with the sickle cell disease (SCD) are getting increased support, especially mothers and babies.
In his message for World Sickle Cell Day, to be observed on Saturday (June 19), the minister said expanded interventions are saving the lives of patients.
“The ministry has introduced life-changing interventions for persons living with SCD,” he said, adding that plans are in place for mothers to “deliver their babies at a specialist hospital”.
“More healthcare workers are being trained in a specialised programme to provide this care,” he added.
Dr Tufton said the ministry has collaborated with the Caribbean Institute for Health Research (CAIHR), the Sickle Cell Unit (SCU) at the University of the West Indies, and the Sickle Cell Trust for continued newborn screening in some parishes, and that through a national Ministry-led programme, screening was extended to include all hospitals that deliver babies, public and private facilities.
The sickle gene, which leads to the production of an abnormal red blood cell, is passed on from parents with the sickle cell trait or disease to their children. In Jamaica, one in every 150 persons is born with the disease, and one in every 10 persons has the Sickle Cell Trait.
According to Dr Tufton, in addition to their regular childhood check-up, “parents are taught to feel for enlargement of the spleen (a common life threatening complication at this age)”.
“These children are offered additional immunisation (haemophilus influenza B boosters and pneumococcal vaccines) to protect them against severe infections and subsequent premature death. As of last year, all these critical immunisations are available free to affected persons,” he noted.
Noting that the interventions have “significantly improved maternal and infant mortality and morbidity” in Jamaica, the minister said, increasingly, patients can be linked to care close to their residence across the health facilities.
“The Cabinet has given approval for persons living with SCD who are seen at the Sickle Cell Unit to access medication free of cost through the public pharmacies,” Dr Tufton said.
He added that the ministry is continuing collaboration with stakeholders to improve the care offered to persons living with the disease, and there is increased collaboration with patient representatives in particular, through the Sickle Cell Support Foundation of Jamaica, where patient needs are being assessed and addressed.
The day will be observed under the theme 'Shine the Light on Sickle Cell'.
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