Sickle cell disease. Many people may not be aware of it’s prevalence, but it is estimated that 1.8 in every 1,000 persons in the Jamaican population has sickle cell disease, 300 Jamaican babies are born annually with the disease, and 10% of the Jamaican population carries the sickle cell trait. According to the World Health Organisation, overall, five per cent of the world’s population carries the sickle cell trait. Here are five important dates in the development of treatment or awareness of the sickle cell disease in Jamaica.
October 1992: Camille Daley started the Sickle Cell Support Club of Jamaica. The group was the first of its kind to target sickle cell patients specifically with support, while raising awareness of the disease.
March 11, 2015: A machine for screening sickle cell, a High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) machine, was acquired by the Jamaican Government through a technical cooperation project between Brazil and Jamaica. The machine was handed over by the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) to the Sickle Cell Unit, located at the Tropical Medical Research Institute on the grounds at the University of the West Indies.
April 2015: The Sickle Cell Support Club rebranded itself. New name? Sickle Cell Support Foundation of Jamaica (SCSFJ). The switch from club to foundation would enable the group greater access to funding from donors to support its work.
June 30, 2015: It was announced by then health minister Dr Fenton Ferguson that sickle cell disease had been added to the list of chronic conditions covered by the National Health Fund (NHF), with a $211 million allocated for subsidies on medication for the treatment of the disease.
June 2016: At the American Thoracic Society International conference in San Francisco, Jamaican medical practitioner, Dr Anya McLaren, received the prestigious Paediatrics Scientific Abstract Award from the American Thoracic Society (ATS) for her research in sickle cell disease – specifically for her research on the effects of the drug hydroxyurea on pulmonary function decline in children with sickle cell disease.