Sixty-eight percent of the Ministry of Public Health’s budget goes towards addressing chronic non-communicable diseases [NCDs]. This is according to Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Shamdeo Persaud, who said that NCDs are a very big challenge for the health sector.
“Sixty-eight percent, and it may even be more of the budget, go to attending chronic non-communicable diseases and their complications,” said Dr. Persaud.
Just last year Senior Minister of Public Health, Ms. Volda Lawrence said, 57 percent of Guyanese adults suffer from some kind of the main NCDs – heart disease or hypertension, diabetes, cancers or chronic lung disease. She disclosed that “approximately 70 percent” of those suffering from NCDs between the ages of 35 and 60 die annually.
The Minister who was speaking at the launch of the Presidential Commission on NCDs which was set up to enhance Guyana’s efforts to arrest the challenge, said that although the region was ahead of the rest of the world a decade ago when it produced the historic 15-point Port-of-Spain Declaration with its 26 Commitments to combat NCDs, it wasted the advantage.
She pointed out that one of the key architects of the plan, Trinidad and Tobago, is second to Georgetown when it comes to deaths linked to NCDs.
Since the historic Port-of-Spain Declaration, NCDs continue to be a bugbear of the Region and one of the main challenges in the health sector in the Region of the Americas, said Minister Lawrence as she made reference to diabetes and heart diseases as the major causes of deaths in Georgetown and Trinidad and Tobago.
She said, too, that more people in the Americas are expected to fall victims to NCDs with the statistics predicting an “increase in the coming decades due to population growth, aging and urbanization” among other risks.
Locally, Lawrence highlighted the herculean efforts of Dr. Persaud who is working in the ‘All of government; All of Society Approach’ to help counter the multi-dimensional causes of NCDs.
“The Ministry will intensify the campaign against the perpetuation of this high incidence of premature deaths from NCDs in order to ensure a sustainable economic framework pillared by a healthy nation and fulfill the objectives of the 2030 agenda,” the Minister said.
The Public Health sector was poised to roll back NCDs with the new tobacco laws “within the framework” of the global Framework Convention on Tobacco Control [FCTC] to which Guyana is a signatory.
And indeed the results are being realised. According to the CMO, the public health sector has been able to improve its response to NCDs. He, however, lamented recently, that there still exist some challenges. The challenges, he said, has been linked especially to the movement of people.
“Now you have the situation in our bordering countries, particularly Venezuela, with persons coming over…our health services have sometimes to work way beyond its normal call of duty to ensure that those persons are attended to too,” said Dr. Persaud.
Even as he spoke of the effort focused on NCDs, the CMO also noted that a sizeable chunk of the public health sector’s budget also goes towards dealing with mental health issues and those related to accident, injuries, violence and suicide.
“Those are things that we have to interact a little bit more with a broader sector of society. It is not necessarily that we can address these problems only by how well we can suture wounds or fix something that happens at the level of an institution but we may have to go out there a little bit more and be more proactive towards prevention.
But in order to ensure that these challenges faced by the health sector are continually addressed, Dr. Persaud that the public health sector has been training health workers.
The move in this direction, Dr. Persaud said, is in keeping with the Sustainable Development Goal [SDG] number four. SDG number four is one that speaks to the notion of life-long learning, which is crucial to any health sector.
Just recently, the health sector commenced training of a batch of 36 medexes who will be plugged into the system by 2021 as part of its commitment to SDG number four.
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