Guyana’s NCD Strategic Plan under PAHO/WHO evaluation

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, MOPH – GUYANA’s seven-year non-communicable diseases (NCDs) strategic plan needs a judicious mixture of partnerships and prioritisation and sound implementation.

The 2013-2020 national NCD blueprint for the health sector called the ‘Integrated Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases in Guyana’ is modelled after existing best practices from regional, hemispheric and global approaches.

When she met Monday with Dr Karen Cummings, Minister within the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH), Dr Beverley Barnett, consultant to PAHO/WHO said her visit is part of a wider initiative to undertake “a qualitative analysis” of the NCD strategies of four CARICOM states.

from left:
Dr. Beverley Barnett, Dr, Karen Cummings and Karen Roberts (Specialist-NCD’s and Family Health PAHO Guyana).

Guyana is the first country to be visited by Dr Barnett under the regional plan. She is also scheduled to hold similar discussions with Barbados, Jamaica and St Kitts/Nevis.

Monday’s talks were part of “a deeper analysis” with Dr Cummings were to elicit her perspective on Guyana’s NCD multi-sectoral plan, Barnett said.

The plan notes that Guyana will pursue a Health-in-All-Policies (HiAP) approach which envisions “strong leadership and political will”. It encourages civic and private sectors participation while simultaneously challenging them to embrace the new approaches to combating NCDs which are also called chronic diseases.

The 4 main types of chronic diseases are cardiovascular diseases (such as heart attacks and stroke), cancerschronic respiratory diseases (such as chronic obstructed pulmonary disease [COPD] and asthma) and diabetes. Ageing, unplanned urbanisation and the popularisation of unhealthy lifestyles help fuel NCDs.

Use of tobacco, lack of physical activities, unhealthy diet and abusing alcohol increase the risk of NCDs which disproportionately affect low and middle-income countries. Global statistics show that some 75 percent of all deaths from NCDs occur in low and middle-income countries.

That is why Barnett’s visit is so timely since Guyana has reached the half-way point in its programme implementation.

Prioritising their efforts in the sector “will be the key to implementing the NCDs strategy successfully. This will help individual countries better allocate human and financial resources and determine the best courses of action” to support their vision she said.

Establishing priority will also “greatly assist individual territories make timely interventions” to benefit their populations according to the consultant to PAHO/WHO.

In addition, Barnett suggested the MOPH establish partnerships with individual local sectors, its development partners and civil society for the success of the NCD strategy.

In his Foreword, former Health Minister, Dr. Bheri Ramsarran, noted that NCDs have “emerged as a new frontier in the fight to improve health globally. The increase in such diseases means that they are now responsible for more deaths globally than all other causes combined.”

“The new Guyana NCD Strategic Plan will position our Nation to mount an effective, sustainable response,” Ramsarran said.

The country’s NCD strategy is built on five planks: Risk factor reduction and Health Promotion; Integrated Disease Management and Patient self-management Education; Programme Management; Surveillance, Monitoring and Evaluation and Public Policy, Advocacy and Communication, according to Dr Kavita Singh, MOPH Chronic Disease Director.

Singh described the 7-year plan as “very comprehensive (and) if implemented accordingly will provide optimum health care and risk factor reduction” for its beneficiaries.

Dr Cummings likes the strategy and like Singh also emphasized the issue of implementation which she indicated will most likely include a redirection of human and financial resources “without losses where gains are made”.

Probing questions by Dr. Barnett should assist Guyana with identifying its strategy’s strengths and weaknesses, spotting any existing gap and helping to generating recommendations to improve the MOPH 7-year NCD guide.