The Non-communicable Disease Unit
Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs) and injuries are a major public health burden in Jamaica, and are the leading cause of death. In 2015, an estimated seven out of ten Jamaicans died from the four major NCDs, Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes and Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease [Ministry of Health 2018]. Many of these deaths, as well as lifelong disability and compromised quality of life could have been prevented.
According to the World Health Organisation, up at least 80% of all heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes and over 40% of cancer would be prevented by eliminating shared risk factors such as tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and the harmful use of alcohol . Violence and injuries are also preventable. There are cost effective interventions to tackle this epidemic, such as, the World Health Organization best buys. 
The signing of the 2007 Caribbean Community Heads of Government, Port of Spain 15-point declaration “Uniting to stop the epidemic of NCDs and the 2011 “United Nations Political Declaration on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable diseases” was “a watershed moment”, whereby Heads of State and Government recognized the threat those diseases posed to health, economies and societies. In response to this epidemic, the Cabinet approved in 2013 a comprehensive Multisectoral National Strategic and Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs in Jamaica 2013 to 2018. This has provided the framework for National response to NCDs.
MISSION & VISION
The mission of the Non-communicable Disease Unit, Health Promotion and Protection Branch, Technical Division of the Ministry of Health is to coordinate the national efforts to provide leadership, strategic direction and use cost-effective evidence based approaches to prevent and control major non-communicable diseases including injuries, and their risk factors.
Our Vision is “Healthy families living in healthy communities and persons living with or affected by chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) including injuries achieving optimal quality of life “.
Main Strategies to reduce NCDs
The Unit employs three main strategies to reduce the burden of NCDs in Jamaica: (i) tracking the disease burden and utilizing the data to guide policies and programmes (ii) reducing exposure of Jamaicans to the common risk factors for non-communicable diseases and injuries and (iii) strengthening health care systems for people with non-communicable diseases.
The Unit will know it has been successful when the risk factors, incidence, prevalence and mortality for non-communicable diseases including injuries decline.
- Develop National Non-Communicable Disease Prevention and Control policies and strategies.
- Ensure an effective disease surveillance system for non-communicable diseases including injuries to define needs identify priorities, and guide policy and programme development.
- Provide leadership and coordination in the management of programmes for the prevention and control of chronic diseases and injuries
- Capacity building and technical support on Non-communicable diseases including injuries prevention and control.
- Monitor and evaluate NCDs response to ensure on-going feedback and program effectiveness.
- Support and foster multisectoral policies and partnerships for NCD prevention and control.
- Dr. Tamu Davidson Sadler, Director NCDs and Injuries Prevention
- Dr. Heather Brown, Medical Officer
- Mrs. Annmarie Graham Menzie, Specialist NCD Surveillance Officer
- Ms. Shaneil Robinson, Secretary
Five-year Multi-sectoral Road Map
The Ministry of Health has commenced, in collaboration with our key stakeholders, the implementation of a five-year multi-sectoral road map for NCDs entitled: “The National Strategic and Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases in Jamaica 2013 to 2018”, which was approved by Cabinet in October 2013, and tabled in Parliament on July 1, 2014. The plan covers seven main categories of diseases; these are cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, diabetes, sickle cell disease, mental health and injuries.
There are five priority programme areas and five strategic objectives under the plan that are being implemented:
- Risk factor reduction and health promotion
- Comprehensive and integrated disease management for NCDs and injuries;
- Surveillance, research, monitoring and evaluation
- Public policy and advocacy
- Leadership, governance and capacity building
There are 14 lead targets to be achieved under this plan including the goal to reduce the burden of preventable morbidity and disability and avoid premature mortality due to non-communicable diseases and injuries by 25% by 2025.
Jamaica is facing a silent and chronic emergency that threatens to erode gains made in our national development. It is a tragedy to spend millions of dollars on saving people from infectious disease only to lose them prematurely due to NCDs. There are cost effective solutions to tackle this epidemic, however, many of the interventions required to mitigate the impact of this epidemic lie outside of the health sector and will need a “whole of society” response. If we come together as a nation to tackle NCDs, we can do more than prevent death and illness; we can safeguard our own future.
- Preventing chronic diseases: a vital investment. World Health Organization 2005.
- Global status report on noncommunicable diseases2010, World Health Organization.