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Jamaica’s Health Ministry Pledges $25 Million for Prostate Cancer Research

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Jamaica’s Ministry of Health has committed some $25 million, over the next five years, to advance prostate cancer research in Jamaica.

Portfolio Minister, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, made the announcement as he addressed the Jamaica Medical Foundation’s (JMF) 25th Annual General Meeting at the Knutsford Court Hotel in New Kingston.

He informed that the Ministry is partnering with the Jamaica Medical Association (JMA) and the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, to embark on the study, which will be led by Consultant Urologist at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI), Dr. William Aiken.

“The Ministry is committing $25 million over the next five years. That’s an average of $5 million per year, for the study. When we get the final discourse, we will determine how much more (we can give),” Dr. Ferguson stated.

He noted that the financial contribution is separate and apart from the manpower and technical assistance that the Ministry will also provide.

Prostate cancer remains the leading cause of cancer deaths among males worldwide, whileJamaica has one of the highest rates in the world with approximately 150 men diagnosed each year. Medical experts believe that a large percentage of affected men remain undiagnosed.

Dr. Ferguson said the study is expected to go a far way in advancing Jamaica and the wider region’s cancer treatment and preventative efforts.

He said there is a lack of research in Jamaica, and called for much more studies to be done, particularly as it relates to non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

“For us, in Jamaica, there is no culture of research.  It is always important for everything you do to be evidence-based and it is to that extent that research becomes so very important in how we go forward,” he stated.

He noted that research is necessary to assist in the reduction of NCDs, particularly cancers, as the numbers of incidences and costs associated with treatment continue to rise.

Dr. Ferguson informed that over 60 per cent of deaths in Jamaica are related to NCDs, such as heart disease and cancer, while treatment for such illnesses costs the country over $170 million annually.

“Many of you know the impact of cancers on families has been tremendous. Family savings and pensions have been wiped out by just one member of the family having the disease,” he lamented.

The Health Minister informed that work will also be carried out in the area of cervical cancer research, which remainsthe second most common cancer among women worldwide and the leading cause of deaths in developing countries.

He said the Government will be taking a closer look at research out of India, which suggests the use of vinegar or citric acid, as a form of preventative treatment for the disease. He stated that the Ministry will also be pushing to ensure that the HPV vaccine becomes available to all young women in Jamaica.

In the meantime, Chairman, JMF, Oliver Jones, informed that in addition to its work in research, the oganisation has contributed some $5 million to various institutions and individuals over the past few years.

These include the Kingston Public Hospital’s Renal Unit; the Heart Foundation of Jamaica; the UHWI; the Jamaica Cancer Society; the Cornwall Regional Hospital’s Renal Unit; and the Bustamante Hospital for Children.

The JMF, which was established in 1988, is an outreach project of the Insurance Association of Jamaica. It is celebrating its 25th anniversary under the theme: ‘25 Years of Service and Commitment’.