Friday, 17 February 2017

Health Literacy and Development

It is rather unfortunate that when we speak about literacy and all its variations we tend to overlook health literacy.  Health literacy is defined in the Institute of Medicine Report, Health Literacy: A Prescription to End Confusion as the degree to which individuals have the capability to obtain, process and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions. Regrettably, in spite of numerous interventions over the years Jamaica still has not reached 100 per cent literacy. This sad reality can and does have long term and devastating consequences, especially on our elderly population, the subset often inflicted and impacted by lifestyle diseases. The inability to read oftentimes can put one’s health in jeopardy since the individual will not have the necessary literacy and numeracy skills to, for example, to understand nutrition labels and read doctor’s instructions regarding how to administer medication. Additionally, the measurement of medication, as well as how one calculates and understand one’s blood sugar and blood pressure readings require numeracy skills. In too many instances many patients end taking the wrong dosage of the medication, either by over dosing or by taking less than the required dosage because they are illiterate, either way the individual does not benefit. Unfortunately, there are instances too where the caregiver is not able to read and as such the health of the individual is further compromised. As a society we need to redouble our efforts to working towards the goal of 100 per cent literacy. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) 2015 country profile of Jamaica, more than 161,000 males and close to 74,000 females who are over the age of 15 lack basic reading and writing skills. The UNESCO data does not augur well for the society regarding literacy in general and health literacy in particular. The intersectionality of gender and culture are significant components of health literacy. Disturbingly, we live in a society where men who are unable to read prefer to remain in the dark than to seek help. For many males to seek help in respect to their illiteracy is tantamount to an attack on their masculinity and manhood.  It bears thought that the average literacy score for women is usually higher than that for men. There is an urgent need to engage in more public education especially for our elderly who are among the most vulnerable in the society.
More Outreach Needed
Our Non-Government Organizations (NGO’s) and other interest groups need to do more outreach in respect to targeting illiteracy in our nation. Our churches need to engage the population more in assisting in remedial reading classes. While it is commendable that a number of churches have embarked on having health fairs and days which service the wider community, more engagement regarding the elderly and shut- in needs to be done in order to assist in making the lives and health of our citizens more comfortable.  Health literacy is an issue which requires the attention of the government since it is the bloodline through which the solutions towards having a healthy society which is a critical element in order to have sustainable development.
In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “it is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver”.
Wayne Campbell

Monday, 13 February 2017

Women In Science

On February 11, 2017, the global community paused to commemorate the United Nations Internationally Day of Women and Girls in Science. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) estimate that only 28 per cent of researchers are females. Historically, women and girls have been restricted from achieving their human rights to an education. Many jurisdictions in an attempt to increase the participation of women and girls in the fields of science have been placing more emphasis and resources on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Jamaica’s new National Standard Curriculum (NSC) is pivotal in addressing the disconnect between the participation of both sexes regarding equal access to education.    
It bears thought that governments all across the globe need to be more responsive to the needs of women and girls in achieving gender equality.  Sadly, the breaking of the class ceiling is still a dream for many women and girls particularly in some societies where patriarchal structures and toxic cultures are more entrenched both in the public and private spheres. These factors serve as a barrier to women’s full and equal participation to education and training.
In order for any society to advance and progress the rights of women and girls must be protected and expanded. The 21st century female must be not be hindered by intersectional factors, such as, income, geography, age, race. It is estimated that 2.5 million new engineers and technicians will be required in sub-Saharan Africa in the areas of Science and Technology; regrettably, these jobs will more than likely be filled by men if women are not encouraged to pursue these career paths.
Interestingly, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #5 speaks to achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls which more societies clearly need to pay more attention to.
A gradual change and shift over the years in how women and girls view and access education more so higher education manifests itself, especially at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, where females, inclusive of the faculty of medical sciences account for the majority of all graduating students. The time has come for all societies to close the gender digital divide which is a critical pillar for achieving sustainable development. In the words of Beth Simone Noveck, “starting early and getting girls on computers, tinkering and playing with technology, games and new tools is extremely important for bridging the gender divide, that exists now in computer science and technology”.
Wayne Campbell

Sunday, 5 February 2017


Standing in the hallowed hallway of the college of my choice
Beaming with pride and joy
Anxious and somewhat frightened, what was I thinking?
Is a college degree worth the sacrifice, I repeatedly asked myself
I took the bait, hook line and sinker
To this fallacy, created by the movers and shakers of this cruel world
To keep us in line!
Maintaining the status quo in order to stifle our creativity
Why didn’t I see this coming?
To be counted among the vocational areas was to be considered
Intellectually challenged, dull! Dunce!
If only I knew then what I know now.

Fast forward!
Downtrodden, a grave sense of despair and hopeless
Trapped!  Rocked by the insecurities of this world
Governments held to ransom
By multinational lending agencies
Structural Adjustment Programmes designed to keep us dependent, while the rich wallow in ill- gotten gains
Neo- Colonialism!
Our humanity have been stripped bare
Exposing our backsides for the entire world to see.

No one really cares
Youth unemployment!
Blighted prospects!
Where is the future?
Hope and optimism vanish away in thin air,
Living in a world where qualification and experience play second fiddle
Who knows you is what matters
Don’t be silly!
Yet another interview.

Deja vu!