The Health Minister noted that the main objective of this endeavour is to strengthen the management of sickle cell disease in primary care, secondary and tertiary care levels by 2018.
“The main targets for achieving these objectives are for 100 percent of pregnant women and newborns to be screened for sickle cell, guidelines to be completed and published and 90 percent of healthcare workers trained in the management of sickle cell disease,” he informed.
Dr. Ferguson was speaking at the launch of World Sickle Cell Day held at the Faculty of Law Lecture Theatre at the University of the West Indies on Friday, June 19.
He also pledged the support of the Ministry in tackling the disease.
“I am now an evangelist for sickle cell disease…I feel a sense of excitement knowing that there has been much development taking place as it relates to the early diagnosis of sickle cell disease,” he said.
For her part, Director of the Sickle Cell Unit, Professor Jennifer Knight-Madden says that sickle cell is a very common chronic disease affecting one in every one 150 babies born.
“Living with sickle cell is a challenge especially because it is so unpredictable and uncertain and it is a huge problem in Jamaica. Fifteen percent of adults have a gene that puts us at risk of having a child affected by this disease,” she stated.
Professor Knight-Madden further stated that early detection of the disease will allow for interventions to be put in place to diminish the impact of the disease.
“It is essential that babies are screened at birth, because the highest chance of dying from sickle cell disease is in the first five years of the child’s life. So newborn screening is essential,” she emphasised.
Screening of new born babies for sickle cell disease will be made available at all public hospitals across the island.
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