Jamaica aims to reduce its maternal and infant mortality rates, which currently stand at 10.668 deaths per 1,000 live births. This is a 2.04% decline from 2022’s 10.890 deaths per 1,000 live births. In January, the government of Jamaica announced the “Right Start – A Maternal and Newborn Care Initiative” to address these challenges. The program aims to improve maternal care, particularly for the most vulnerable parents and babies.
About the Initiative
The initiative will see the nationwide distribution of Butterfly Monitors (handheld ultrasound machines) to improve prenatal care and complication checks. According to reports, 24 machines will be available to ten hospitals across Jamaica, including emergency departments at several more facilities. This will enable early diagnoses of problems such as heart conditions or maternal hemorrhaging.
Hospitals like Victoria Jubilee, Spanish Town, Princess Margaret and St Ann’s Bay, will benefit from these machines, improving prenatal care and complication checks as a result. The portability of these machines will allow for the provision of essential care without the need to move patients to different hospital departments, thus streamlining the care process for parents, fetuses and doctors. In addition, emergency departments at several more facilities like Kingston Public Hospital and University Hospital of the West Indies will benefit from these devices.
Other Support Efforts
To support this program, The Jamaicans Abroad Helping Jamaicans at Home (JAHJAH) Foundation trained more than 40 health care professionals on using the Butterfly Monitors in a two-day workshop earlier this year. The organization will also provide monthly training, including consultations and case reviews.
The second part of the ‘Right Start’ initiative is the ‘Snuggle Nest Kits’. This more pastoral approach to improving maternal care in Jamaica has already seen 60 kits, which contain portable infant beds, diapers and other hygiene supplies, distributed to disadvantaged new parents. The American Friends of Jamaica (AFJ) provided $25,000 in funding for the new ultrasound machines and donated 100 kits in collaboration with the U.S.-based company, Bailey’s Medical Supplies.
The Jamaican Ministry of Health and Wellness recently announced its intentions to order 2,000 more ‘Snuggle Nests’, and acknowledged the AFJ and Bailey’s Medical Supplies for offering support. These kits will mean young and vulnerable parents can provide a more safe and secure environment for their babies, particularly when they have other responsibilities around the home to take care of.
The ‘Right Start’ initiative is an important step toward reducing infant and maternal mortality rates by improving maternal care in Jamaica, particularly for the most susceptible babies and parents. Although Jamaica has made progress in this area, there is still work to be done to meet the U.N.’s target of ending preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years of age by 2030.
– Martha Probert