Guyana winning Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) fight

GEORGETOWN, MOPH – Guyana is winning the battle against chronic Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) which is still a “growing health crisis” in the Caribbean, Public health Minister Volda Lawrence and PAHO/WHO Representative Dr William Adu-Krow said Wednesday.

Lawrence and Adu-Krow made the observation while addressing a one-day ‘Capacity building workshop for members of the Presidential Commission for NCDs Prevention and Control’ held at the Marriott Hotel in the capital under the auspices of the Public Health Ministry, PAHO/WHO and the Health Caribbean Coalition (HCC).

In her keynote address Lawrence reminded that Caribbean continues to be “burdened by the prevalence of NCDs which account for 8 out of 10 deaths (80 per cent), and where 40 per cent of our deaths occur prematurely before the age of 70.

“This is a critical moment for  the Region as we witness the adverse health and economic effects of NCDs,  and it is therefore imperative that at both the national and regional levels, we take  bold, decisive and urgent action to reverse the trend and slow down the threat of the NCD epidemic” the Minister said.

When the Presidential Commission on NCDs was launched at the end of 2017, President Granger who is its Chairman challenged the nation to prioritise health and make lifetime-based interventions leading to reduction of the main modifiable risk factors for NCDs namely tobacco use, unhealthy diets, physical inactivity and harmful use of alcohol. Lawrence repeated these sentiments Wednesday

“It is our people’s health and lives that are at stake and if we are to counter the adverse effects on our people’s health and economic life, there is need to reach out to our communities and initiate the fight there against the chronic non-communicable diseases,” she told the audience.

Adu-Krow who outlined the local NCDs challenges said Guyana nevertheless a lot has been done in a short time and the country is “winning the battle”.

The national Commission for the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases is the advisory body to Cabinet on NCD matters and risk factors with responsibility for the oversight of the implementation of the 2013-2020 NCDs strategy. The local public and private sectors, international organisations and a number of other bodies comprise the Commission which is chaired by President David Granger.

According to Dr Adu-Krow, The Commission has seven functions: to coordinate development of policies, legislation and national mechanism (and to implement strategies and programmes to prevent NCDs; to advise the prime Minister (PM) and Cabinet on existing gaps in NCDs prevention and control in the state sector and to broker involvement of all relevant sectors in programme implementation. The Commission is also expected to scale up efforts undertaken by firms and other bodies to help promote health and prevent NCDs;  to advocate and assist in mobilising resources  for NCD implementation, prevention and control; spearhead partnerships with institutions of higher learning, locally, regionally and internationally and help monitor and evaluate “relevant research agenda” the document said. It said the 20-odd member Commission is also expected to help assess the health impact of different sector policies, programmes and projects with a view to ensuring contradictions and duplications are avoided while their efforts are aligned with government policies.

Like other regional territories, Guyana also faces what Lawrence called a “growing health crisis” presented by chronic NCDs. The sole English-speaking South American Republic has been able to better manage infectious diseases and as a consequence mortality rate is therefore declining and “Guyanese are living longer,” the Commission document said. With local longevity improving “the risk for and burden of chronic diseases also increase,” with heart disease, hypertension, stroke, diabetes and cancers being the five leading killers, the Commission document said.

Sir Trevor Hassell, President of Healthy Caribbean Coalition (HCC), who is on a short visit to Guyana, noted that “the world is watching what is taking place with the Guyana NCDs Commission (and) we have to deliver”.

Wednesday’s one-day capacity building programme was to make the Commission “fit for purpose” so they can have a local, regional and global NCDs perspective, Sir Trevor said.

Following yesterday’s meeting a framework was expected to be developed to ensure a “better functioning Commission to add value to the country,” Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Shamdeo Persaud said.

“The plan that we generate must therefore be specific to the Regions and communities as we must entertain in our planning that Guyana is an ethnically diverse and multi-cultural society. The Commissioners must be a bridge of support between the people and the Ministry of Public Health and whatever initiatives we table must correlate with the health facilities in all our various communities”, Minister Lawrence counselled.