Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, has commended the Heart Foundation of Jamaica (HFJ) on “a stellar half century of contributions to public health in Jamaica”.
“The Heart Foundation embodies what it means to be committed to a cause and, for me, there is no greater cause than public health,” the Minister said, while highlighting the organisation’s rich tradition of collaboration, perseverance and consistency.
He was speaking during the virtual launch for the HFJ’s 50th Anniversary on Thursday (February 4).
Dr. Tufton recounted several groundbreaking health initiatives pioneered by the HFJ, including the Mend-a-Heart Programme and the Rheumatic Fever Programme, which were initiated when rheumatic heart disease was more prevalent in Jamaica.
He also hailed some of the HFJ’s more recent initiatives, such as the “impactful anti-obesity campaign, cautioning Jamaicans about the dangers of sugary drinks”, which was consistent with the Ministry’s stance on the health risks these beverages posed.
The Minister expressed the hope that the HFJ will continue to contribute to safeguarding the health and well-being of Jamaicans for another 50 years.
“The Heart Foundation is a critical stakeholder in public health, and so we wish you many more years of hard work and success for the benefit of our population,” he added.
For her part, HFJ Chair, Dr Andrene Chung, said the principal objective for the Foundation’s establishment was to remedy issues relating to rheumatic heart disease (RHD), which was affecting significant segments of the Jamaican population in 1971 when the entity was officially formed by the Lions Club of Kingston.
She pointed out that since then, there has been a notable change in the health status of the population, including a marked decline in RHD and the emergence of ischaemic heart disease (IHD) associated with obesity, hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes mellitus and high cholesterol.
The HFJ Chair said that in a bid to maintain its relevance and response to current issues, the Foundation has, since the turn of the century, focused on influencing policy to effect sustainable changes.
This, she explained, as the environment needed to be more conducive to a healthy lifestyle, adding that these efforts yielded, among other things, the establishment of smoke-free environments and graphic health warnings on cigarette packages.