Seventy percent of the Ministry of Public Health’s budget is expended on addressing Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs). It is for this reason that the Ministry is touting as imperative, the need for persons to develop healthy lifestyle choices and practices early, so as to avoid falling prey to NCDs.
This is according to Junior Minister of Public Health, Dr. Karen Cummings, who recently revealed that the top four causes of premature death in Guyana are cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory disease.
According to her, although the Ministry is advocating for citizens to adopt healthy lifestyle changes, the Chronic Diseases Unit of the Ministry of Public Health has the designated mission to address the aforementioned causes of premature death, thereby ensuring that a multi-sectoral, integrated approach is maintained.
Understandably, achieving this goal comes as no small burden to Government and the families and caregivers of those suffering from chronic diseases.
However, in the quest to address this existing challenge, Dr. Cummings said that the Chronic Diseases Unit performed creditably during the past year when compared to other years. As such, she noted that “we at the Ministry of Public Health are optimistic that 2017 will bring additional achievements that further promote the work of the Unit.”
In collaboration with the Country Office of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the Unit completed the first leg of the implementation plan for the years 2016 – 2018 in alignment with the Integrated Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Disease Strategic Plan 2013 – 2020. Moreover, the Unit was able to work unremittingly to ensure it achieved all the activities that were programmed for 2016.
According to the Public Health Minister, the Chronic Disease Unit will this year continue to ensure that capacity building occurs in the regional facilities. Between October 17–28, 10 new providers were trained and placed in the health care sector to ensure that screening for cervical cancer continues.
The training also produced a new provider in the Charity area, signaling the launching of a new site for VIA screening. There are now 20 sites located across Guyana with a total of 33 VIA-certified providers, according to Minister Cummings. Added to this, she said that a new cohort of 17 doctors and nurses from the six Regions of the country where there are Regional Diabetic Foot Centres, were trained in Diabetic Foot Care and Management.
Added to this, Minister Cummings revealed that in November 2016, the Ministry met with members of the Guyana Business Coalition on Health Awareness, and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was developed, which will see affiliated private sector companies allocating funding towards chronic non-communicable diseases.
The funding, she divulged, will cover focal point nomination, support groups, training, screening, and purchasing of gym materials to allow for more physical activities in workplaces. The entities also agreed to enforce the no smoking policies in their work environment, Dr. Cummings said.
The Chronic Disease Unit of the Ministry during the past year developed a training course and manual for community personnel to become more actively involved in sensitizing their peers on non-communicable diseases. The programme, entitled “Community Leaders in Health” is a conglomeration of all the essential services offered by the Ministry of Public Health which are essential in combating NCDs. At two training sessions held in August and November of last year, a total of 51 persons from communities in Region Two, Three, Four, Five, Six and 10 were trained, Minister Cummings related.
PARTNERS AND STAKEHOLDERS
Currently, the Chronic Disease Unit is working collaboratively with a number of international partners and stakeholders which include PAHO, the Guyana Diabetic Association and the Caribbean Public Health Agency.
According to Dr. Cummings, in February 2016, the Coordinator of the Chronic Disease Unit was able to attend the First Global Meeting for NCDs programme managers and directors. This meeting saw Guyana opening discussions related to free trade and innovative approaches towards combating non-communicable diseases.
“The launch of the National Commission on Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases was an idea which met the unreserved approval of the forum and the Ministry of Public Health intends to make this Commission a reality in 2017,” Minister Cummings assured.
In advancing the fight against NCDs, the Minister said that there were recent collaborations with the Chronic Disease Unit, Bureau of Statistics, PAHO and the Caribbean Public Health Agency. This strategic collaboration, according to her, saw Guyana for the first time executing the Stepwise Approach to Chronic Disease Risk Factor Surveillance, commonly referred to as the STEPS survey.
This survey took place in all 10 administrative Regions of Guyana, and targeted approximately 3,456 persons to participate in Steps One and Two, while a total of 1,728 persons participated in Step Three. Minister Cummings disclosed that “there was a response rate target of 66 percent for Steps One and Two, and 25 percent response rate target for Step Three. A 77 percent response rate was recorded for Steps One and Two and a 57 percent response rate was recorded for Step Three.”
Currently, the project is being analysed and, according to Minister Cummings, a final report is expected to be produced by March 31, 2017. The Steps Survey cost approximately $110 million and was collaboratively funded by Government and PAHO.
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