We are backpedalling!

IAN Stein, Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)/World Health Organization (WHO) representative, is calling on business leaders to re-energise the country’s commitment to immunisation, which he said is one of the most cost-effective public health interventions.

The charge to business leaders was given at the Rotary Club of Kingston last Thursday, in response to downward trends in routine vaccination and the substantial risks associated with this trajectory.

“We have seen a resurgence of the polio virus in Malawi, London and New York. With falling vaccination rates and large numbers of children at risk of contracting the disease, we are backpedalling on decades of tremendous work which resulted in the certified elimination of the virus in Latin America and the Caribbean in 1994,” cautioned Stein.

In 2019, the Pan American Health Organization celebrated 25 years of the Americas being polio-free. In response to the recent identification of a case of polio in an unvaccinated individual in New York, PAHO/WHO has encouraged member states to maintain and strengthen surveillance for the detection of cases and increase efforts to achieve the necessary high levels of vaccination coverage.

Stein also encouraged the business community to advocate for adopting measures to combat non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and support local policy development.

“NCDs impact individuals, families, businesses, and society in general. While some may not see the impact of NCDs on businesses, I assure you that human resource departments note the increased use of health insurance by employees which results in increased premiums and requests for time off to do surgical procedures associated with NCDs,” shared Stein.

“When we consider that 80 per cent of all deaths in Jamaica are from non-communicable diseases and the return on investment is 2.1 dollars for every dollar invested, then debates on matters such as front-of-package labelling standards, the proposed tobacco control legislation and school nutrition are opportunities for advocacy,” he said.

Cardiovascular diseases such as coronary heart disease and stroke, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes are the leading causes of death in Jamaica and the region.

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