Presidential Commission for chronic diseases launched
Georgetown, Guyana – (December 18, 2017) President David Granger has outlined a three-pronged approach aimed at reducing the incidence of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs). This includes countryside public information on the dangers of alcohol and tobacco, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity; promulgation of initiatives led by all sections of society especially the media, stakeholders in the entertainment industry and trade unions and a comprehensive and multi-sectoral approach to implement prevention and control measures. The Head of State made these remarks at the launch of the Presidential Commission on NCDs at the Umana Yana Saturday.
The President, who will chair the Commissioner and will take the leading role to drive these approaches in an effort to reduce the prevalence of NCDs, particularly heart disease and diabetes, which plague the Guyanese society. “The Presidential Commission has a lot of work to do in these three areas and its work will be decisive in determining the extent to which we can enjoy a good life in Guyana… This Presidential Commission on Non-Communicable Diseases can succeed if it is based on better information, more initiatives on the part of all of society and the implementation of campaigns aimed mainly on our children. I would like to see a nation of happier children and healthier communities,” he said.
The Head of State pointed out that as a result of lifestyle and cultural carelessness, more than half of the country’s adult population suffer from a NCD. In fact, almost seven out of every ten deaths of Guyanese, aged 23-60 years, are caused by cancers, chronic lung diseases, diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. Additionally, uncontrolled use of tobacco and alcohol and poor eating habits has serious economic implications, particularly in rural and hinterland communities.
“The public must be better informed of the need for lifestyle changes and choices in order to reduce risk… NCDs are a serious threat to life and the leading cause of premature death. NCDs are a pressing problem and unfortunately, the burden falls mainly on the poor… Reducing risk factors, therefore, will not only save lives but will save money,” he said.
In 2007, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) convened a special Regional Summit on NCDs Caribbean, which resulted in regional leaders issuing a fifteen-point declaration, known as the Declaration of Port-of-Spain. That Declaration urged the establishment of National Commissions on NCDs to plan and coordinate the comprehensive prevention and control of NCDs. In fulfilment of that Declaration, Guyana developed the Guyana Strategic Plan for the Integrated Prevention and Control of Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases and their Risk Factors 2013-2020.
Subsequently, in 2014, the then Government established a National Commission for the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases. However, President Granger said that it would be impossible to ensure satisfactory standards of public health unless the highest priority was accorded to the prevention and control of NCDs. “That is why I have come here today to lend my name and my Office so that children everywhere, schools, adults, the drinking classes, the smoking classes will know that it is at the level of the President himself that attention will be paid to NCDs and the prevention of NCDs,” he said.
Meanwhile, Minister of Public Health, Ms. Volda Lawrence, in her remarks informed that the report issued at the CARICOM Heads of Government Summit in July, revealed that Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago were ranked as first and second respectively, in terms of the prevalence and deaths as a result of heart disease and diabetes.
She said that President Granger’s acceptance to serve as chair of this very important and timely Commission is proof of his commitment to ensuring that Guyanese enjoy a better quality of life. She assures that “the Ministry of Health will intensify the campaign against the perpetuation of high incidences of premature deaths from NCDs in order to ensure a sustainable economic framework pillared by a healthy nation and to fulfil objectives of the 2030 Agenda.”
The Minister also informed that her Ministry in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO) has already commenced work with regard to tackling NCDs with the passage of the Tobacco Control Bill. Moreover, with support from the Presidential Commission, the Ministry plans to implement measures to abolish the marketing of tobacco to minors and eliminate exposure to second-hand smoking in all public spaces. Other actions will be taken against other risk factors, especially those that affect children and youths.
Similar sentiments were expressed by PAHO/WHO Country Representative, Dr. William Adu-Krow, who said that this is an opportune time for Guyanese to come together to deal with NCDs. He explained that the task of the Commissioners on this body includes the development of policies, advising the President and the Public Health Minister on existing gaps in NCDs that must be addressed and helping all sectors and civil society to intensify efforts to fight this scourge.
According to the WHO, NCDs or chronic diseases are diseases of long duration and generally slow progression. The four main types of NCDS are cardiovascular diseases (heart attacks and stroke), cancer, chronic respiratory diseases (such as chronic obstructed pulmonary disease and asthma) and diabetes. NCDs kill more than 36 million people each year. Some 80 percent of all NCD deaths occur in low and middle-income countries.