Jamaica Gleaner / The reported circumstances surrounding the death of a baby in Mavis Bank, St Andrew, on Christmas Eve last year have brought into sharp focus the need to prioritise maternal and child health in Jamaica.

This is according to principals for the Partnership for the Promotion of Patients’ Rights in Maternal, Neonatal and Infant Health in Jamaica (MNIH) project.

“As a group, we join with the larger community in asking for answers and in the effort to address these issues,” said Professor Wendel Abel, head of the Department of Community Health and Psychiatry (DCHP) at the University of the West Indies (UWI).

Abel is also lead investigator for the project, on which the UWI DCHP has partnered with the Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre.

In a Sunday Gleaner report last December, Dujon Foxton recalled the death of his baby after his girlfriend Jodian Hines went into labour on Christmas Eve, a month earlier than anticipated. The frantic father of the baby said that he had been unable to secure transportation assistance for the mother from the police, who were said to be down to a skeletal staff.

Together with statistics reflecting the reality of the health of mothers and their children in Jamaica, the case is well made for prioritising maternal and child health locally.

Jamaica’s newborn mortality ratio was 11.6 per 1,000 live births in 2015, while the maternal mortality ratio was 89 per 100,000 live births. Also, in 2015, the infant mortality ratio was 13.8 per 1,000 live births and the children under five mortality ratio, 15.7 per 1,000 live births.

“We need to ask ourselves how we can support the police in their efforts as first responders. Also, how can we promote better health-seeking behaviours among our women? Further, what role can communities, as partners in health-policy planning and monitoring, play to safeguard the health of mothers and their children?” noted advocacy specialist Linnette Vassell.

These and other issues are among those being looked at under the three-year project, which is funded by the European Union and aims to strengthen patients’ rights, engender a sense of personal responsibility among users of the healthcare system, and improve the role and effectiveness of civil society in advocacy for MNIH.

Issues arising from the death of the baby in Mavis Bank include:

– The ability of the police as first responders and emergency medical services personnel to respond to pregnant women in crisis;

– The health-seeking behaviours of expectant mothers; and

– Paternal and/or community support for expectant mothers.

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