Deaths related to chronic non-communicable diseases high – Health Minister
More than 80 percent of all deaths in the world today are linked to chronic non-communicable diseases, according to Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy.
He revealed that in Guyana an overall 74.1 percent of all deaths in 2008 were in fact as a result of this health challenge.
Similar trends have obtained in 2009 and last year, according to the Minister who was at the time addressing the launch of Guyana first Kidney Foundation on Wednesday last.
“At the Ministry of Health, we examine every death certificate and even follow the charts to make sure that the cause of death was properly ascribed…” the Minister informed.
He revealed that in 2008 13.2 percent of all deaths in Guyana were because of a communicable disease including HIV. In fact he divulged that 81 percent of all female deaths in Guyana in 2008 and 69 percent of all male deaths the same year were because of one of the chronic non-communicable diseases.
It was in 2008, too, he disclosed that the country’s various hospitals and clinics saw 150,000 first visits for ailments that were related to chronic non-communicable diseases.
“In a small country like this we are talking about a very serious situation…But the story of Guyana is not unique. We see it in Barbados, Trinidad, Jamaica, Suriname, Belize, in the other Eastern Caribbean countries such as St Kitts, Dominica, St Vincent and we even see it in African and Asia and the developed countries.”
However, he asserted that in some countries such as Barbados the number of deaths related to chronic non-communicable diseases is even higher and therefore is approaching the figures obtained in developed countries where more than 90 percent of all deaths are related to chronic non-communicable diseases.
Statistics, according Minister Ramsammy, suggest that more than one billion people across the globe live with hypertension and close to 300 million people live with diabetes. He further explained that a lot of people living with hypertension also have diabetes as well, compounding their already daunting health status.
Given the devastating impact of non-communicable diseases, the Minister has regarded the introduction of the Kidney Foundation as a critical partner to the Ministry of Health even as efforts are made to facilitate long, healthy and productive lives of the citizenry.
Speaking at a simple ceremony to launch the Foundation, Dr Ramsammy pointed out that “there can be no doubt that we in Guyana, like our sisters and brothers throughout the world, are confronted with a menacing enemy – chronic non-communicable disease.” Chronic non-communicable diseases, the Minister said, is an enemy that threatens to impoverish millions of people around the world, Guyana being no exception.
He highlighted that such diseases are in fact on the rise, a situation which accompanies lifestyle changes in every corner of the world.
As a result, he speculated that the objective of the Foundation should not merely address kidney diseases or kidney health but rather to raise awareness of how to protect and prevent such diseases before the need for management and cure arises.
“Though we would be too utopian to believe that we don’t need to think about management and cure, we have to. The fact of the matter is that almost five percent of the adult population, in Guyana around 20 to 25,000 persons, would be living with some initial stages of chronic kidney diseases. It is higher in some countries but our estimate is around five percent of our population.”
Moreover, the primary challenge faced by health sectors globally is that most people with initial chronic kidney diseases go undiagnosed.
And so often is the case that when such diagnoses are made it is at a time when the disease is already at an advanced stage, perhaps even at a point when the patient is in need of dialysis. Kidney diseases, Minister Ramsammy explained, can occur due to inherited conditions and also through infections of the kidney, obstructions in the urinary tract, inflammatory diseases of the kidney and because of hypertension and diabetes.
These medical challenges, according to the Minister, are also high risk factors for cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes.
Commenting on the rise of non-communicable diseases in Guyana, the Minister pointed out that before 1990 less than 10 percent of all deaths in Guyana were of people 65 years and older which was then attributed to the life expectancy rate. However, he noted that as people live longer health problems have the potential of becoming worse.
For this reason, he intimated that it has become critical that the health sector embrace programmes that will address chronic diseases, with chronic non-communicable diseases being dubbed “the heart of the matter,” as it has huge linkages to heart diseases and cardiovascular events.