Civil Society Collaborative Forum Will Protect Patients’ Maternal, Neonatal and Infant Health Rights

Nowadays, we talk a lot about “partnerships.” They make sense for a number of reasons – not least as a way of pooling resources and making resources stretch further. The EU-funded Partnership for the Promotion of Patients’ Rights in Maternal, Neonatal & Infant Health in Jamaica (The MNIH Project), led by Professor Wendel Abel and Linnette Vassell, is a classic example of this. Not only has the EU, as donor partner, worked with the University of the West Indies (UWI) and the Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre (WROC), but also a formidable grouping of civil society organizations has come into being that will advocate, inform, advise, monitor and explain human rights issues specific to mothers and their small children in the health system.

In a broader context, this programme is critical in addressing the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. Specifically, the goals are: “By 2030, reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100 000 live births”; and “By 2030, end preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years of age, with all countries aiming to reduce neonatal mortality to at least as low as 12 per 1000 live births and under-5 mortality to at least as low as 25 per 1000 live births.”

Congratulations to UWI, WROC and all the partners involved in this collaboration. I am sure we will be hearing much more from them in the future. Here is more information from WROC, dated October 26, 2018:

Women's Resource & Outreach Centre logo

Newly formed Civil Society Collaborative Forum to tackle human rights in health care

In a historic move to address issues of patients’ rights in health care in Jamaica, the first convening of the Civil Society Collaborative Forum (CSCF) took place on Thursday, October 25, 2018, at the Hotel Four Seasons, Kingston.

Twenty-four CSOs were represented at the landmark meeting, which was hosted by the Partnership for the Promotion of Patients’ Rights in Maternal, Neonatal and Infant Health (MNIH), a European Union-funded project jointly implemented by the University of the West Indies (UWI) Department of Community Health & Psychiatry and the Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre (WROC).

Noting that this coming together was the result of more than 16 months of on-the-ground meetings and awareness-raising among CSOs across the island, MNIH Advocacy Specialist Linnette Vassell stated, “This first convening of the CSCF marks the creation of a space for dialogue and advocacy among Jamaican CSOs working within a human rights-based framework to address health issues facing specific communities.” These issues include stigma, discrimination, making the complaints and redress system more effective, and also paying keen attention to the rights of health-care providers.

She also noted that the CSCF is a space to build awareness about human rights in patients’ care in health, especially in relation to maternal and infant health; promote cooperation among CSOs addressing the health issues of particular groups of clients; promote and strengthen respectful partnership between civil society and the Ministry of Health and related bodies; discuss and make inputs into health policy and for improving the health-care environment; and bring the public into discussions and the monitoring and improvement of health-care delivery.

Each CSO made brief presentations on the human rights issues their organisations wanted to pay attention to, as well as how they could contribute to and benefit from the CSCF, after which a specially designated listening group gave a summary report. The listening group comprised Public Defender Arlene Harrison-Henry, Methodist Church Minister Rev Claudette Campbell, Planning Institute of Jamaica Health Specialist Denese McFarlane, WROC Chairperson Lorna Lee and Education Officer Alysa Nebel.

Summarising the group’s remarks, McFarlane noted the commonality of issues raised by the CSOs. “What we’re hearing,” she said, “is that people want access to information about their health – whether it is their files or information about their rights as patients.”

She continued: “There is concern about issues of informed consent, legislation addressing the right to health care, national health insurance – especially for mothers, decision-making for pregnant women, infant health, youth … privacy and confidentiality, stigma and discrimination, customer service training, and communications.”

The Forum also saw CSOs being introduced to the MNIH Human Rights in Patient Care Training Manual, a tool produced under the MNIH project which will be used to raise awareness first among CSOs, and then in their respective communities.

The CSOs present included the St Elizabeth Women’s Limited, Rural Women’s Network, Rural Family Support Organisation, Jamaica Midwives Association, Jamaica Medical Students Association, Jamaica Medical Doctors’ Association, Nurses Association of Jamaica, Jamaica Family Planning Association, Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition, Children First, Eve for Life, Jamaica Combined Disabilities Association, Trelawny Parish AIDS Committee, Ferdie’s House, Jamaicans for Justice, Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network, Sickle Cell Foundation of Jamaica, Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities, Jamaica Community of Positive Women, The Women’s Empowerment Group, WMW Jamaica, Jamaica Household Workers’ Union, Jamaica Network of Seropositives, and Jamaica AIDS Support for Life.

Powerful partnerships: Representatives from 20 civil society organisations pose with the collage of values affirming the official formation of the Civil Society Collaborative Forum (CSCF), hosted by the EU-funded Partnership for the Promotion of Patients’ Rights in Maternal, Neonatal & Infant Health in Jamaica (MNIH) on Thursday, October 25, 2018 at Hotel Four Seasons, Kingston. (Photo: WROC)

For more information, contact:

Ruth Howard, Communication Officer,

Partnership for the Promotion of Patients’ Rights in
Maternal, Neonatal and Infant Health (MNIH),

The Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre

Tel: (876) 535-1579 | Email:

Department of Community Health and Psychiatry

University of the West Indies, Mona, Kingston 7, Jamaica

Tel: 1-876-970-6626 / 927-2476 / 927-2893

Contact: Marjorie Neita, Project Coordinator




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