Stay healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic
Message from the Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony
– Caribbean Wellness Day 2020 – September 12, 2020
– Theme: “Power Through Collective Action – Stronger Together 2020”
Today, I am delighted to join with all of us in Guyana and the rest of the region in celebrating Caribbean Wellness Day 2020 under the theme, Power Through Collective Action — Stronger Together 2020.
As I recall, the observance was mandated by the CARICOM Conference of Heads of Government in 2007.
At the time, the Heads of Government issued the Port-of-Spain Declaration referred to as, “Uniting to Stop the Epidemic of Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs),” and declared the second Saturday in September as Caribbean Wellness Day.
Thereafter, since 2008, many individuals, governmental and non-governmental organisations, as well as communities from all over the region, including here in Guyana, have come together on this day to strengthen the ‘all-of-society’ response to the burden of NCDs.
NCDs are responsible for most of the deaths occurring in Guyana, and they are linked to sedentary lifestyles. They are driven primarily by four major risk factors: tobacco use, physical inactivity, harmful use of alcohol, and unhealthy diets.
NCDs pose devastating health consequences for individuals, families and communities, and the continue to severely impact the health, economy and development of Guyana and the rest of the Caribbean as a whole.
This annual observance of Caribbean Wellness Day, therefore, seeks to promote healthy living through activities and programmes that support wellness and overall healthy living.
This year, we are focusing on raising awareness about mental illness and mental health, addressing stigma and discrimination — especially toward frontline essential and/or health care workers; and promoting coping strategies aimed at reducing stress, in particular, during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 has no doubt disrupted and changed our lives.
For many Guyanese, living through the pandemic has led to heightened anxiety and unease. Some are still trying to cope with the new realities of working from home, working on a temporary basis, taking of our children all day, or home schooling our young ones.
Some are still trying to come to grips with new guidelines which restrict social activities and, in some cases, have led to a lack of physical contact with family members and friends.
As a consequence of the struggles of being isolated, flattening the curve and reducing the spread of COVID-19 require sacrifices and adaptation of new strategies to stay connected with loved ones virtually.
As the number of COVID-19 cases increases, the number of healthcare providers involved in managing the crisis is increasing.
Our health care and essential workers who put their lives on the line every day to care for and treat COVID-19 patients are faced with challenges of stigma and discrimination.
Many of our health care workers have been denied entry to public transportation and the community due to the perception that they may be infected and could transmit the virus to others. This puts them at higher risk of developing psychological problems.
Further, the occasional absence of our doctors, nurses and other essential workers from daily operations at our medical facilities can have a shattering impact on service delivery.
Therefore, stigma and discrimination must be rooted out from our society.
Our frontline medical staff must be saluted for their hard work and dedication to the people of Guyana.
The Ministry of Health, through its Mental Health Unit, will continue to work with its partners in health to provide psychological support to those affected by the deadly COVID-19 disease.
We have begun providing guidance and advice for health care workers, people in isolation and those in the COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit.
Additionally, through our Public Relations/Health Promotion Unit, there will be several interventions geared at setting behavioural communication objectives and determining consistent messages, materials and activities for intended audiences across the various communication channels.
We have also written a proposal to GT&T for support with the establishment of a 24-hour national counselling helpline. The aim is to provide psychosocial support to anyone who is having a hard time coping with stress during COVID-19.
We are committed to creating an environment in which everyone has someone to turn to for psychological support. As we observe Caribbean Wellness Day, we therefore urge everyone to stay well.
We urge you to eat well, avoid excessive use of alcohol and stay physically healthy, while ensuring that you adhere to the COVID-19 guidelines.
Check on people around you, and stay connected despite social distancing. In the absence of being able to see your friends and family in person, a video call could help to bridge the gap.
Let us stay stronger and healthier together at all times, and even moreso during these COVID-19 times in which we live.