A seven-year birth cohort study conducted by a team of University of the West Indies (UWI) researchers has been presented at a two-day conference, beginning today (May 31), at the Sir Kenneth Standard Lecture Theatre.
It aims to improve the health and well-being of Jamaica’s children by providing valuable data on the relationships among a wide range of family, school, community, environmental and individual variables.
It will also contribute to greater understanding of the various factors that influence health and disease, as well as social and emotional development in young children.
Titled, ‘JA KIDS: The Jamaican Birth Cohort Study 2011’, the study included all the children born in the 14 parishes across Jamaica from July 1 to September 30, 2011.
Approximately 11,124 children were born in Jamaica during this period. Participants were recruited while pregnant during March to September 2011. Subsequently, contact was made with families when their children were 9-12 months, 18-22 months and 48 – to 54 months.
At each contact, participants were asked questions about their health and well-being, their child’s growth and development, the child’s environment, nutrition and parental practices.
In her address at the opening ceremony for the conference on Wednesday (May 30), at the venue, Patron of the JA KIDS conference and wife of the Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Juliet Holness, said the initiative will assist in laying the foundation for a prosperous Jamaica.
“The foundations are our children. They represent the hopes and dreams of our nation. It is investing in them as well as investigating their needs, their strengths and their vulnerabilities that we will enable and be better prepared to appropriately cater to their social needs, physical needs and their economic infrastructure, which will undoubtedly ensure that Jamaica will be established as a place where we can comfortably live, work raise our families, do business and retire in prosperous peace,” she said.
Noting that fatherhood remains an issue in Jamaica, Mrs. Holness called on men to assume their rightful place in the lives of their children.
She emphasised that this would lead to a balanced adulthood for these children, as “an environment of sharing and equality is crucial to a well prepared and conditioned adult.”
In his address, Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Senator the Hon. Ruel Reid, commended the research team for the important work they have been doing to assist in improving the development outcomes of the nation’s children.
“The Ministry recognises that in establishing our policies and programmes, we will be focusing on early interventions, child development and academic achievement, and our efforts must be underpinned by indepth research,” the Minister said.
“Evidence is crucial in supporting these initiatives. Armed with information, we are better able to allocate both financial and human resources for each sector that supports the development of our children,” he added.
Principal Investigator, JA KIDS, and Professor of Child Health, Development and Behaviour, Maureen Samms-Vaughan is quoted in a UWI Mona press release as saying: “We expect the findings from the JA KIDS study to benefit Jamaica by providing the health, education, social and academic sectors with information from which to develop national policies and programmes to ensure the best possible outcomes for our children and families.”
Representative from international funding agency, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Chief of Operations, Adriana Lavalley, said the Bank was pleased to assist in improving the lives of Jamaica’s children.
“As a knowledge-focused institution, the Bank welcomes the ways in which JA KIDS will deepen our understanding of the various factors that influence health, growth and development in young children and importantly, how it will enable the design and implementation of public policies, interventions and programmes that are evidence- based,” she noted.