The Health in the Americas+ country profiles are based on the interagency indicators available as of the dates referenced. The sources are referenced in this table. In some cases, the values of the indicators may differ from the most recent data available in the country.
Environmental and social determinants of health
In 2000 the total population of Jamaica was 2 612 205 inhabitants; by 2023 this figure had risen to 2 825 544, representing an 8.2% increase. Regarding the country’s demographic profile, in 2023 people over 65 years of age accounted for 7.8% of the total population, an increase of 1.9 percentage points compared to the year 2000. In 2023, there were 101.7 women per 100 men and 39.9 older people (65 years or older) per 100 children under 15 years of age, as can be seen in the country’s population pyramids, distributed by age group and sex (Figure 1). Considering the population between 15 and 64 years of age to be potentially active (i.e., potential participants in the labor force), this group represented 72.8% of the total population of the country in 2023 (2 057 594 people). When we add these figures to the potentially passive population (548 920 under 15 years of age and 219 031 over 65 years of age), the result is a dependency ratio of 37.3 potentially passive people per 100 potentially active people. This ratio was 64.7 in 2000.
Life expectancy at birth in 2023 was 72.4 years, lower than the average for the Region of the Americas and 1.4 years higher that in 2000.
Figure 1. Population pyramids of Jamaica, years 2000 and 2023
Between 2000 and 2019, the average number of years of schooling in Jamaica increased by 32.9%, reaching an average of 9.7 years in the latest year for which information is available.
The unemployment rate in 2022 was 6.0%. Disaggregated by sex, the rate was 7.0% for women and 5.2% for men. The literacy rate was 88.1% in 2014 (83.4% for men and 92.79% for women). In addition, 19.9% of the population were below the national poverty line in 2012, a decrease from 18.7% in 2000.
During the period 2000-2021, the country improved its score on the Human Development Index, with an increase of 6.8% (from a score of 0.664 to a score of 0.709); during the same period, the index rose 13.5% internationally and 9.4% in Latin America (Figure 2).
Figure 2. Human Development Index in the Region of the Americas, 2021
In 2020, public expenditure on health accounted for 4.5% of gross domestic product (GDP) (Figure 3) and 13.99% of total public expenditure, while out-of-pocket spending on health accounted for 15.07% of total health expenditure.
Figure 3. Domestic general government health expenditure as percentage of gross domestic product, 2020
In 2021, 82.4% of the population had an internet connection, representing a considerable increase from 2000, when 3.1% of the population had an internet connection.
Maternal and child health
Between 2006 and 2020, infant mortality in Jamaica decreased from 21.1 to 16.7 deaths per 1000 live births, a decrease of 20.9% (Figure 4). The percentage of low-weight births (less than 2500 g) increased from 10.0% to 11.6% between 2003 and 2021. Adherence to exclusive breastfeeding in the child population up to 6 months of age was 23.8% in 2011 (latest available data), which is an increase from 15.2% in 2005.
Regarding the immunization strategy, measles vaccination coverage was 91.0% in 2022, an increase of 3 percentage points from 2000, reverting to the coverage in 2000 (88%), while DPT 3 coverage decreased from 99% in 2016 to 96% in 2020, and polio coverage decreased from 99% to 95% over the same period.
The maternal mortality ratio for 2020 was estimated at 98.9 deaths per 100 000 live births, a reduction of 19.1% from the estimated value for 2000 (Figure 5). In relation to fertility, it is estimated that in 2023 women had an average of 1.3 children throughout their reproductive lives. In the specific case of adolescent fertility, there was a 57.8% decrease, from 74.8 live births per 1000 women aged 15 to 19 years in 2000 to 31.6 in 2023. In 2020, 99.8% of births were attended by skilled birth personnel. Between 2008 and 2011, the percentage of pregnant people who received antenatal care remained around 87%.
Figure 4. Infant mortality per 1000 live births, 1995–2020
Figure 5. Maternal mortality per 100 000 live births, 2000–2020
In 2021, there were 2 new cases of tuberculosis per 100 000 population in Jamaica. In 2019, the overall tuberculosis mortality rate (age-adjusted and per 100 000 population) was 0.2 (0.1 in women and 0.4 in men).
In 2021, the estimated human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection incidence rate (new diagnoses) was 21.2 per 100 000 population. The age-adjusted mortality rate for HIV was 25.4 per 100 000 population in 2019. It should be noted that during the 2000-2019 period this indicator decreased by 46.8%.
Noncommunicable diseases and risk factors
In Jamaica in 2023, the prevalence of tobacco use among people aged 15 and older was 8.6%. In the same age group, the prevalence of overweight and obesity was 55.5% in 2016.
Also in 2016, 32.6% of the population reported insufficient physical activity.
In 2015, the reported prevalence of arterial hypertension (high blood pressure) among people aged 18 years or older was 21.8%, a decrease of 2.5 percentage points compared to 2000 (24.3%). The prevalence of diabetes mellitus, which stood at 8.1% in 2000, increased to 11.9% in 2014.
In 2019, the adjusted rate of potentially avoidable premature mortality in Jamaica was 284.5 deaths per 100 000 population, a decrease of 16% from a rate of 338.8 in 2000. This meant that, in 2019, the rate in the country was 25.5% higher than the average rate reported for the Region of the Americas as a whole. Among potentially avoidable premature mortality, the rate for preventable causes was 159.3 per 100 000 population in 2019, which is 16.2% lower than the regional average rate; and the rate for treatable causes was 125.2 per 100 000 population, above the regional average of 89.6.
The overall age-adjusted mortality rate was 5.8 per 1000 population in 2019, a decrease of 9.4% compared to 2000 (6.4 deaths per 1000 population).
When deaths are categorized into three main groups, it is observed that, in 2019, the age-adjusted mortality rate from communicable diseases was 57.5 per 100 000 population (75.7 per 100 000 in men and 40.4 per 100 000 in women), while the age-adjusted mortality rate from noncommunicable diseases was 454.8 per 100 000 population (477.3 per 100 000 in men and 434.2 per 100 000 in women). The rate of age-adjusted mortality from external causes was 72.6 per 100 000 population (112 per 100 000 in men and 35.1 per 100 000 in women), including road traffic accidents (14.2 per 100 000 population), homicides (47.9 per 100 000 population), and suicides (2.3 per 100 000 population). In 2000, the percentage distribution of causes was 72.8% for noncommunicable diseases, 15.3% for communicable diseases, and 11.9% for external causes; in 2019, the percentages were 77.8%, 9.8%, and 12.4%, respectively (Figure 6).
Figure 6. Proportional mortality in Jamaica, 2000 and 2019
Regarding cancer mortality from tumors, in 2019, the adjusted mortality rate from prostate cancer was 53.4 per 100 000 men; lung cancer, 23.9 per 100 000; and colorectal cancer, 11.2 per 100 000. In women, these values were 25.5 deaths per 100 000 for breast cancer, 8.2 per 100 000 for lung cancer, and 15.1 per 100 000 for colorectal cancer.
The health situation and the COVID-19 pandemic
In Jamaica in 2020, there were a total of 12 827 cases of COVID-19, representing 4540 per million population. In 2021, there were 81 093 identified cases, equivalent to 28 704 per million population. In 2020, there were 302 deaths directly caused by COVID-19 in people diagnosed with the disease, or 107 per million population; in 2021, 2171 deaths were reported, or 768 per million. In 2020, Jamaica ranked 34th in the Region of the Americas in terms of the number of deaths from COVID-19, and 33rd in 2021, with a cumulative 873 deaths per million population over the two years (Figure 7).
According to estimates by the World Health Organization, there was a total of -900 excess deaths in 2020, or -30 per 100 000 population; a total of 4493 deaths were estimated in 2021, for an excess mortality rate of 151 per 100 000.
As of 31 December 2021, at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine had been given to 26.6% of the country's population. As of 20 April 2022 (latest available data), 23% of the population had completed the vaccination schedule. The vaccination campaign began on 10 March 2021, and five types of COVID-19 vaccine have been used to date.
Figure 7. Cumulative COVID-19 deaths in the Region of the Americas, to July 29th, 2023
Measures to achieve universal health coverage
Aligned with Vision 2030, Jamaica's National Development Plan and by extension the Sustainable Development Goals, the Vision for Health 2030 ten-year strategic plan aims to improve the health and well-being of the population through health impact goals. These can be summarized in two themes. First, the reduction of disease burden due to noncommunicable diseases and communicable diseases, including the elimination of neglected tropical diseases. Second, health equity through ensuring safe motherhood and a healthy start for newborns and infants, and by protections for populations in situations of vulnerability. The plan embraces the goal of universal access to health care – an adoption of the global move toward universal health coverage.
Specific strategies include an expansion of primary care and infrastructure modernization to safeguard access to equitable and quality health care. Strengthening ministry of health governance and health-financing, and aligning human resources for health with the country’s shifting disease profile are key tools for enabling universal health coverage. Working with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Jamaican healthcare development is focusing on resilience within the context of universal health coverage, health throughout the life course, the promotion of health-in-all-policies to address the social determinants of health, and multisectoral collaborations.
Challenges related to population health
Jamaica is aging, and the pace of this aging is predicted to increase. In 1980, the proportion of Jamaica’s population aged 65 and older was 6.8%. This proportion increased to an estimated 9.1% by 2020 and is predicted to more than double to 23.1% by 2060. This future increase of 14.1 percentage points represents a rapid rise in older adults and is above the regional averages for the Caribbean of 10.7 percentage points, and for the Americas of 13.7 percentage points.
Jamaica has made important progress in reducing the burden of maternal and neonatal disorders, respiratory infections, and notably HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections. The disease burden is now dominated by noncommunicable diseases. Cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and cancers in 2019 were the top three causes of death and disability, collectively accounting for 42 percent of all healthy life lost. Other noncommunicable diseases increase this burden to three-quarters of all healthy life lost. The burden of mental disorders, self-harm, and violence has increased, collectively accounting for 10% of all healthy life lost in 2019.
Ongoing challenges to health include the threat of emerging and reemerging diseases, especially those that are mosquito-borne, lifestyle risk factors contributing to the noncommunicable disease burden, and structural health system concerns, such as healthcare governance, financing, and difficulties with recruiting and retaining health professionals. Solutions to each of these challenges require multisectoral cooperation.
HIV remains a health challenge. In 2017, the Government of Jamaica committed to a “treat all” policy but remains far from achieving the second and third of the United Nations globally agreed targets of 95% tested, 95% treated, and 95% with viral suppression. Respiratory disease from environmental air quality is a relatively new health challenge, and the Government of Jamaica is working on a national air-quality road map.
The increasing burden of mental disorders has recently been highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Jamaica has developed a National Mental Health Strategic Plan (2020–2025), and the WHO Mental Health Gap Action Programme is being implemented.
COVID-19 pandemic response
Jamaica experienced four major COVID-19 outbreak surges between April 2020 and May 2022, with many of the 3000 confirmed deaths by May 2022 concentrated in these outbreak periods. The Government of Jamaica, with support from the World Bank and other agencies, undertook a COVID-19 response and recovery program, centered on protections for poor and vulnerable communities, supporting sustainable business development and job creation, and strengthening policies and institutions for resilient recovery.
A major ongoing COVID-19 policy is the further scale-up and implementation of the vaccination program in cooperation with regional and international partners. Planned strengthening of national health surveillance activities will include COVID-19 as a notifiable respiratory condition. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for strengthened pandemic preparedness in health and related sectors, and the importance of multisectoral partners in contributing to this preparedness. A PAHO technical cooperation program will help to strengthen the response capacity, with a focus on this multisectoral approach.
Measures to reduce inequalities in health
Strategic Goal 5 of Vision 2030 is aimed at reducing inequalities through improvements in social participation and health promotion to address the social determinants of health that negatively impact health status. Regional and global external pressures are recognized as a major risk to the ongoing healthcare improvements. Vision 2030 places the sustainable management of environmental resources, and climate change adaptation at the heart of national development. The financial crisis of 2009 and the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020–2021 are two examples of external pressures that have adversely affected the economic stability across the small island developing States of the Caribbean.
Additional data provided by Jamaica
|Prevalence of insufficient activity, age 15 and older (%); total||54||2016||Jamaica Ministry of Health and Wellness. 2018. Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey III (2016–2017). Government of Jamaica; 2018||https://www.moh.gov.jm/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Jamaica-Health-and-Lifestyle-Survey-III-2016-2017.pdf|
|Prevalence of tobacco use, age 15 and older (%); total||15||2016||Jamaica Ministry of Health and Wellness. 2018. Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey III (2016–2017). Government of Jamaica; 2018||https://www.moh.gov.jm/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Jamaica-Health-and-Lifestyle-Survey-III-2016-2017.pdf|
|Prevalence of elevated glucose/diabetes mellitus in adults(%); total||10||2016||Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Surveys I, II and III (2001, 2008 and 2016/17). Caribbean Institute of Health Research, University of the West Indies and Ministry of Health and Wellness Jamaica||https://www.moh.gov.jm/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Jamaica-Health-and-Lifestyle-Survey-III-2016-2017.pdf|
|Prevalence of hypertension arterial (%); total||20.9||2001||Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Surveys I, II and III (2001, 2008 and 2016/17). Caribbean Institute of Health Research, University of the West Indies and Ministry of Health and Wellness Jamaica|
|Prevalence of hypertension arterial (%); total||25.2||2008||Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Surveys I, II and III (2001, 2008 and 2016/17). Caribbean Institute of Health Research, University of the West Indies and Ministry of Health and Wellness Jamaica|
|Prevalence of hypertension arterial (%); total||31.5||2016|
|Maternal mortality ratio||95.9||2017||Jamaica Ministry of Health and Wellness, 2017.|
|COVID-19 outbreak waves for Jamaica||1 – August/September 2020
2 – January/March 2021
3 – August/September/October 2021
4 – December 2021/January 2022
5 – April/May/June 2022
|Jamaica Ministry of Health and Wellness, 2022.|