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- Health care
The country has more than 20 hospitals and more than 340 health care centres, most of which are public. The Ministry of Health is responsible for the implementation of effective service delivery and for occupational health and safety. Though public health care is subsidised by the government, citizens pay rates proportional to their income. About 9% of people have private health insurance (2006).
According to a 2013 report by the World Bank, Jamaica’s primary health care system was a model for the Caribbean region in the 1990s, which has resulted in citizens of the country enjoying relatively better health status than people in other, similar countries in the Caribbean region. Since the turn of the century, the government of Jamaica has made moves to try to improve access to health care for its population. This has resulted in the establishment of the Jamaica National Health Fund (NHF) in 2003 and the abolition of user fees at public facilities in 2008.
In July 2014 a High Level Consultation on Universal Health Coverage was held in Kingston, during which the Minister of Health, Fenton Ferguson, announced that the government was continuing to take steps towards universal health coverage (UHC) for all Jamaicans. Recent efforts towards this end include the upgrading of infrastructure, with more than 100 health centres refurbished under the Primary Care Infrastructure Renewal Programme, and spending, since 2012, US$1.5 billion of public funding on equipment acquisition and the upgrading of hospitals.
In 2013 government expenditure on health was 3.4% of GDP. In the most recent survey, conducted between 1997 and 2009, there were 85 doctors, and 165 nurses and midwives per 100,000 people. Additionally, in 2012, 96% of births were attended by qualified health staff and in 2013, 94% of one-year-olds were immunised with one dose of measles. In 2014, 94% of the Jamaican population had access to improved water sources and 82% had access to adequate sanitation facilities.
Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Jamaica accounted for an estimated 79% of all mortality in 2012. In 2012 the most prevalent NCDs were cardiovascular diseases (37%). Cancer, diabetes and non-communicable variants of respiratory diseases contributed 17%, 11% and 3% to total mortality, respectively (2012). Communicable diseases along with maternal, perinatal and nutritional conditions accounted for an estimated 14% of all mortality in Jamaica in 2012. The prevalence of HIV in Jamaica, as a percentage of people aged 15–49 years, was 1.8% in 2012. Levels of HIV in the country peaked in the late 1990s. Jamaica is a non-endemic country for malaria. Estimated incidence of tuberculosis (TB) decreased slightly in the period 1990–2013, showing considerable fluctuation, while estimated mortality (when mortality data excludes cases comorbid with HIV) from the disease remained consistent in the period 2007–13.
The most recent act relating to mental health in Jamaica is the Mental Health Act 1997.
Almost half of health care in Jamaica (45%) was paid for by patients or funded by other non-governmental entities – such as private insurers, charities or employers – in 2012. Total health expenditure constituted 5.9% of GDP in 2012, of which 54% was covered by the government.
Jamaica has signed and ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which includes ‘the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health’. The covenant commits signees to providing healthy and hygienic environmental conditions, controlling epidemic diseases, improving child health and facilitating access to health services without discrimination.
There is some local pharmaceutical manufacturing, although the medical and pharmaceutical market as a whole is dominated by imports, about a third of which are supplied by the USA.
Local manufacturers, such as Lasco Distributors and Medimpex Jamaica, specialise in treatments for HIV, diabetes and asthma. Numerous pharmaceutical distributors in the country include international pharmaceutical giants such as GlaxoSmithKline and Johnson & Johnson, which organise sales in Jamaica. There are more than 300 registered pharmacies on the island, and there are approximately 30 registered manufacturers and distributors of pharmaceuticals in the country (2006).
Although pharmaceutical research in the country is limited, the University of Technology Jamaica offers a postgraduate course in the philosophy of pharmaceutics.
The sale and use of pharmaceuticals in Jamaica are regulated by three main pieces of legislation: The Dangerous Drug Act (1948, The Food and Drug Act (1975) and The Pharmacy Act (1975). The Standards and Regulation Division of the Ministry of Health, and the Pharmacy Council of Jamaica (PCJ) are the main regulatory bodies of the pharmaceutical industry.