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Antigua and Barbuda is the first of four countries in the Caribbean to employ a new case management tool called Zika Mass.

“This software is awesome because it allows us to not only look at the mothers but also the children, and it allows us to monitor the quality of care that is offered, not only in the hospital but also in any health care facility nationwide, whether private or public,” pediatrician Dr. Shivon Belle-Jarvis said.

The software reportedly enables medical professionals to look at information over different time periods.

“We can look at anything from 2016 coming forward and it also allows us to generate reports not only to the Ministry of Health but also to regional bodies,” Dr. Belle-Jarvis explained.

In addition to the software, Dr. Belle-Jarvis told OBSERVER media that a database provided through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is used to monitor the quality of care for babies who are well, while the software keeps track of the Zika virus and other abnormalities.

She said the database also empowers patients so they can acquire information about indicators such as a baby’s head size – which can be affected when mothers contract the disease while pregnant

Dr. Belle-Jarvis listed a team of three medical personnel who are trained in quality improvement and presently serve as coaches or resource persons for the software and a database.

The team consists of nurse and midwife Joyann Quinn, nurse Coralita Joseph and physician Cascelia Bellot. Dr. Belle-Jarvis is the focal point for the Ministry of Health – a position which involves managing, on behalf of USAID, the overall deployment of the software and database locally.

Late last week, Dr. Belle-Jarvis and her colleague, Nurse Quinn, represented Antigua and Barbuda at the USAID conference in Panama which focused on “Care and Support for Infants, Mothers and Families Affected by Zika – Sharing Lessons Learned and Recommendations for the Future.”

There were 18 countries present.

The pediatrician made a presentation on Antigua’s behalf, focusing on the local experiences of the Zika epidemic from 2016 to present.

According to the doctor, locally, a total of 17 mothers and three babies tested positive for Zika during pregnancy.

“We know that these children will get older, but are we as a nation prepared to deal with these children and their families? And so we looked at best practices in terms of clinical care and non-clinical care and basically put a framework in place so we can know not only how to respond to Zika but other epidemics that may arise in the future,” Dr. Belle-Jarvis explained.

Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Dominica are the four countries that have benefitted from projects conducted by USAID with the aim of improving the quality of care for Zika.

A laptop was presented to Antigua & Barbuda to facilitate specific use of the software and for further research.

 Dr. Belle-Jarvis expressed her hope that the small twin island state will be the source of training or the resource country for this new software.

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