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Remarks by the Hon. Dr. Wykeham McNeill Minister of Tourism and Entertainment Oral Health Month Launch and Symposium The Main Medical Lecture Theatre University Of The West Indies Hospital, Mona Friday, October 4, 2013


  • Dr Jeffrey Meeks - President of the Jamaica Dental Association
  • Professor Horace Fletcher - Dean of the Faculty of Medical Sciences, UWI Mona
  • Dr Ruth Parkin, Clinical Professor in Periodontology, Rutgers School of Dental Medicine

Ladies and Gentlemen, good morning . . .

  • I am delighted to have been invited to launch Oral Health Month.  Many of you may be wondering why the Minister of Tourism and Entertainment has been bestowed with the honour of officially opening an event that focuses the nation on better oral hygiene.
  • My colleague the Minister of Health would have been here were he not obliged to be at PAHO meetings abroad.  He and I are not only colleagues but very good friends,  strengthened by the fact that we share the same first name, “Dr.”
  • My connection with this event is both personal and professional. I am proud to say my son, Jordan, is a student of dentistry and will one day join your professional ranks.
  • Oral Health Month started as Oral Health Week over 20 years ago.  It meets a need to inform and sensitize the people to the importance of proper oral hygiene, which is often the most overlooked area of health. 
  • The Government is particularly concerned because it is among one of the most unmet needs among the most vulnerable members of Jamaica’s population.  Yet, oral health care is so essential to general health and wellbeing.
  • Inspite of this, the bright and welcoming Jamaican smile on which we capitalize in our marketing activities is a product of your efforts.
  • However, it is through the rewarding link between dentistry and volunteer tourism, better known as voluntourism, that we are more closely connected.
  • Voluntourism is a growing global trend among travelers who want to engage in meaningful vacations by dedicating a portion of their stay to voluntary service.  Many of you, I am certain, would have participated in such activity.  On behalf of the people and the Government of Jamaica we thank you for so generously giving of your time and skills.
  • Volunteer tourism is offering new opportunities for Jamaica’s tourism industry and it is a market that we, at the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment and the Jamaica Tourist Board, are making every effort to cultivate.
  • A poll conducted by publishers Conde Nast and MSNBC  found that 14% of respondents had taken a volunteer holiday, but 55% said they would like to.  The large gap between desire and experience is encouraging to us in the tourism industry.
  • Jamaica benefits socially, economically and culturally from volunteer tourism, whether it’s new buildings being built, a clean supply of water being provided, or the provision of free health and dental care.  In addition, communities benefit from these tourists spending their money in locally owned restaurants and shops causing less leakage than there would be from conventional mass tourism.
  • Over the years Jamaica has benefited from many voluntourism projects in agriculture, community development, construction, education and teaching, environmental protection and the provision of medical and dental services, just to name a few.
  • Health tourism represents another point of intersection between your profession and tourism. I am advised that the law that has been characterized in the US as “Obamacare,” perhaps inadvertently created opportunities around the issue of dental care upon which we can possibly capitalize in tourism.  The Diaspora and perhaps others have long taken advantage of the high level of dental services available in Jamaica at relatively affordable costs. From a marketing perspective we recognize the benefits of being close, affordable and English-speaking. By forming alliances with members of your profession this is an area on which we could capitalize.
  • I wish to express my gratitude to the members of the Jamaica Dental Association for your tireless work in improving the oral health condition in Jamaica. We are world renowned for our welcoming smiles and warm hospitality, and with your help the smile of every Jamaican will be a lot brighter.
  • I now declare Oral Health Month officially open.

Thank you.