Advocacy for health is at the center of the Heart Foundation of Jamaica’s vision of promoting a healthy lifestyle to prevent cardiovascular disease. The foundation, a non-governmental organization, works with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to advance health policies and actions aimed at reducing the burden of noncommunicable diseases in Jamaica.
The Foundation was incorporated in 1971 as a voluntary organization, sponsored by the Lions Club of Kingston and supported by several club members who were concerned about the high incidence of heart attacks in the country. The Foundation soon became a member of the International Society and Federation of Cardiology, now The World Heart Federation. Since then, the Foundation has grown as an organization; it continues to depend largely on fundraising and contributions from its members.
Today, the 50-year-old organization advocates for cardiovascular health through screening, treatment, education, and research, with the aim of reducing deaths and morbidity from cardiovascular disease by 25% by 2025, as proposed by the World Health Organization. The organization also offers services of prevention and control to the public.
The Foundation is a strong advocate for tobacco control and for improving the quality of foods to combat obesity and noncommunicable diseases in adults and children. Almost a decade ago, the Foundation joined forces with other civil society groups to form the Jamaica Coalition for Tobacco Control. The coalition was at the forefront of efforts in support of the Ministry of Health and Wellness’ backed tobacco control regulations in 2013 and Jamaica’s proposed Tobacco Control legislation.
The Foundation has also been a particularly vocal advocate in support of efforts to include front-of-package warning labels (FOPWL) in the Caribbean standard for labeling of prepackaged foods, which will enable consumers to make more informed choices about their food consumption.
PAHO and the Heart Foundation of Jamaica have worked together for many years to organize events and forums in support of public policies such as tobacco control legislation and reduction of sugar consumption to reduce obesity. In early 2021, both organizations partnered in the launch of a joint multi-platform communication campaign—leveraging television, radio, newspapers and social media—to support front-of-package warning labeling for food products.
The campaign, called #RIGHTOKNOWJA, emphasized the ways that health is harmed when people consume foods high in sugar, fat and salt, and it showed how those ingredients may be hidden in packaged food. The campaign encouraged parents and caregivers to make healthier choices for their children when they buy ultra-processed food. This campaign laid the foundation for a later campaign, #WeSupportFOPWL, to continue the call for warning labels.
The Heart Foundation of Jamaica has gathered a robust team of advocates that seek opportunities to spread their messages for a healthy lifestyle; over the years and in several joint activities, the organization has contributed to PAHO’s efforts by leveraging support from academia, civil society groups, medical organizations, and other non-governmental organizations in Jamaica.
Its strong and consistent support over the years for implementing public policies to reduce obesity and noncommunicable diseases and its mechanisms that encourage people to make healthy choices are examples of what makes the Heart Foundation of Jamaica a valuable PAHO partner.
— The Heart Foundation of Jamaica