McCaw-Binns A, Ashley D, Samms-Vaughan M. Impact of the Jamaican birth cohort study on maternal, child and adolescent health policy and practice. Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology 2010; 24: 3–11.
The Jamaica Perinatal Morbidity and Mortality Survey (JPMMS) was a national study designed to identify modifiable risk factors associated with poor maternal and perinatal outcome. Needing to better understand factors that promote or retard child development, behaviour and academic achievement, we conducted follow-up studies of the birth cohort. The paper describes the policy developments from the JPMMS and two follow-up rounds. The initial study (1986–87) documented 94% of all births and their outcomes on the island over 2 months (n = 10 508), and perinatal (n = 2175) and maternal deaths (n = 62) for a further 10 months. A subset of the birth cohort, identified by their date of birth through school records, was seen at ages 11–12 (n = 1715) and 15–16 years (n = 1563).
Findings from the initial survey led to, inter alia, clinic-based screening for syphilis, referral high-risk clinics run by visiting obstetricians, and the redesign and construction of new labour wards at referral hospitals. The follow-up studies documented inadequate academic achievement among boys and children attending public schools, and associations between under- and over-nutrition, excessive television viewing (>20 h/week), inadequate parental supervision and behavioural problems. These contributed to the development of a television programming code for children, a National Parenting Policy, policies aimed at improving inter-sectoral services to children from birth to 5 years (Early Childhood Commission) and behavioural interventions of the Violence Prevention Alliance (an inter-sectoral NGO) and the Healthy Lifestyles project (Ministry of Health). Indigenous maternal and child health research provided a local evidence base that informed public policy. Collaboration, good communication, being vigilant to opportunities to influence policy, and patience has contributed to our success.