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Primary Prevention: A strategy for sustainable growth

Views from the West

By Veronica Waugh-Brown

Thursday, April 20, 2017    

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Primary prevention is stopping an incident from occurring at the first or main level and involves applying interventions before there is any evidence of a possible event.

It forms the cornerstone to a prosperous and productive nation, as the proactive interventions positively impact the social and economic well-being of a country.

Sad to say, however, in planning, primary prevention has been constantly overlooked. The recent happenings at the Cornwall Regional Hospital in Montego Bay have brought this into sharp focus.

The Cornwall Regional Hospital, described in 2007 by the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) as the “premier public health care facility in western Jamaica”, was recently in the news in a negative way.


This institution, which is approximately 40 years old, has been plagued with a multiplicity of problems.

Having listened carefully to Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton and the chief executive officer of the hospital, Mr Anthony Smikle, the current acute problem faced by the hospital stems from chronic maintenance neglect.

Cornwall Regional Hospital was hot in the news, but I would dare to say that this situation is only a reflection of what is happening in the wider public sector. The general appearance of the management of public entities seems to be that those in authority, or with the authority to manage, often procrastinate until there is a crisis before action is taken.

“Prevention is better than cure” is a well-known adage.But how much do we believe this? If this is really so, why then do we always seem to react to situations rather than being proactive and prevent the undesirable?

Or is it that we are enthralled with the emotional furore of crisis management and would rather be caught up in the excitement of being reactive with secondary and tertiary prevention, or no prevention at all?

Citizens are led to believe that they must demonstrate and block roads if their cry for repair to poor roads is to be heard. Squatters are allowed to proliferate and create unplanned settlements, which engender antisocial behaviours, before there is any attempt to curtail the practice. Authorities procrastinate until crime (for example, lottery scamming) gets out of hand before decisive actions are taken — and the list goes on.

It is high time for us as a country to seriously examine how we manage our affairs and utilise our scarce resources by investing in preventive measures.

Although the result of primary prevention may not be appreciated by many because “weh eye nuh see, heart nuh leap” let us not forget that “a stitch in time saves nine.” Jamaica’s excellent immunisation programme teaches the lesson of primary prevention well.

Consider how much our country has saved and benefitted through this programme. Our children are no longer maimed by polio or dying from vaccine-preventable diseases. Think about it: if, as Jamaicans, we are indeed serious about moving our country forward and building our nation on a path of sustainable growth, then let us apply the same principle used in primary health care. It is time to refocus and turn the spotlight on primary prevention.

It is not worth the while to make the Cornwall Regional Hospital issue or any other such situation a blame game.

Rather, as a people with a vision “to make Jamaica the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business”, it is time that we make the transition from being problem-oriented to focusing on prevention strategies.

Let us learn from the mistakes of the past, build on our successes, and invest in primary prevention.

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