Region Three religious reps to be trained as health advocates

DPI, Guyana, Monday, January 8, 2018

The inaugural health advocates workshop for representatives of religious bodies was declared opened by Minister of Public Health on Monday. The four-day workshop will commence with representatives from the three main faith-based bodies in Region Three, Essequibo Islands-West Demerara.

At the head table (from left to right) Minister within the ministry of Public Health, Dr. Karen Cummings, Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence, PAHO/WHO Country Representative Dr. William Adu-Krow and Professor Michael Scott, Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic Engagement, University of Guyana.

Three representatives each have been drafted from the Christian, Islamic and Hindu faiths, to be trained in delivering advice and health talks, perform simple measurements and refer the members of their respective congregations for professional medical attention as needed. The goal is to have places of worship involved in health promotion activities to reduce chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs). To be selected for training, the applicants will be expected to have a certain level of reading, writing, communication and public speaking skills.

It is hoped that this training will have an impact on the various places of worship, which will by extension raise the consciousness of the social responsibility of youth. Majority of the persons selected to be trained from Region Three are within the 18 to 35 age range, considered youths.

Region Five is the next region to be targetted. It is hoped that upon the successes of having health advocates trained in these two regions, the programme is expanded to all Ten Administrative Regions of Guyana.

During the brief opening ceremony, Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence charged the trainees to use their influence to get the message of healthy lifestyle across to their communities.

“From my observation, religious institutions throughout our history have always played a decisive and predominant role in the lives of our citizens because of the close direct interaction and rapport they manage to establish with their congregations, particularly our youths, among whom the prevalence of NCDs is rife,” Minister Lawrence said.

PAHO/WHO country representative, Dr. William Adu-Krow outlined that after analyzing the Guyana situation, a different approach must be taken in combatting NCDs. He noted a trend that hasn’t changed over a seven-year period.

Those who participated in the workshop.

“We looked at the data between 2003 and 2010… in terms of trends… cardiovascular diseases used to be number one in 2003, 2010 it was still number one, heart diseases were number two in 2003, 2010 it was still number two, cancers happen to be number three in 2003 still was number three in 2010. The situation is still the same.” Dr. Adu-Krow said.

With this information, he noted that “we have a big problem on our hands.” And must take into consideration. Other data presented by the PAHO/WHO Country representative include that from the STEPS survey conducted in 2016.

The 2016 data summary shows that there were 67 percent deaths in Guyana are NCD related while NCDs accounted for 28 percent of premature deaths. “These figures underscore the major health challenges that NCDs pose to our country and the tremendous responsibility placed upon your shoulders to reach out to the residents of your church communities,” Minister Lawrence contributed.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Academic Engagement at the University of Guyana, Michael Scott noted that this training is the foundation of effective advocacy against NCDs. “We have a society who are bruised, battered and broken-hearted; literally and figuratively, and held in the bondage of unhealthiness and unhealthy living which impact their lives and spirit for life.”

He urged for the building of a culture which will promote safe and healthy environments, transforming minds to reform and renew their commitment to healthy living through effective advocacy.

Junior Public Health Minister, Dr. Karen Cummings said that “A key element in the fight against NCDs is the establishment of health literacy within the population through robust health promotion. Persons need to know what they can do to control and possibly prevent the emergence and prevalence of NCDs through simple lifestyle changes”.

This workshop is a collaboration between the Ministry of Public Health, University of Guyana, Pan American, World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO) through Congregations Taking Action against Non-Communicable Disease (CONTACT). The CONTACT Study is a three-year research project that is a collaboration between the University of Guyana, King’s College London, University of the West Indies, Ministry of Public Health and PAHO, among others.

Guyana, along with two other countries (Jamaica and Dominica), has been identified, ideal for such a programme to be rolled out because of its rich and diverse religious base with the larger majority of the population being apart of either of the three main religions.


By: Delicia Haynes


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