Govt targets interventions to enable longer lifespan, reduce threats from NDCs – Health Minister

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
Officials at the launch of Caribbean Wellness Week in Guyana on Friday

Guyana’s launch of Caribbean Wellness Week unfolded on Friday, under the theme: “Healthy Individuals, Communities and Organisations”, which focuses on actions to promote a healthy planet while addressing the threats of non-communicable diseases.

Health Minister, Dr Frank Anthony said during the launch at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC), Liliendaal, Greater Georgetown that preventative measures can be taken to live longer and healthier lives.

According to him, targeted interventions can enable longer lifespans and curtail childhood illnesses.

Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony

“We want people to be constantly thinking about their health. It doesn’t matter what point in the life cycle you are in, you can take preventative measures so that you can live longer and healthier lives. We don’t want you to be sick before you come to the health system, but let us start very early.”

In Guyana, the life expectancy is almost 70 years but in developed countries, this number is higher.

A whopping 76.8 per cent of persons in the Caribbean die from non-communicable diseases – of which 30 per cent are cardiovascular diseases. A 2017 study showed that for every 100,000 persons in Guyana, 345 were dying from chronic NCDs. An estimated 60,000 persons are affected by diabetes – some of whom do not know their status.

“We have a lot of work to do to reduce the burden of non-communicable diseases,” he added.

The Minister pointed to inadequate sleep, stress, excessive alcohol, and smoking as other factors which need to change. Consumption of sugary beverages, fast food, and unhealthy snacks can lead to obesity. Excessive consumption of salt also creates risks, importantly hypertension.

He said it is a two-prong approach where sick persons take their treatment and healthy persons should do annual check-ups. For Guyana to be impacted positively by such awareness, the Health Minister opined that behavioural change is key.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Mark Phillips stated that Governments must ensure the welfare of their citizens and access to safe healthcare. On his Administration’s end, he pointed to several projects in the pipeline to enhance public medical services – the six new regional hospitals, countrywide upgrades to primary healthcare facilities, and the multi-million-dollar partnership with Mount Sinai to establish specialised services.

Prime Minister Brig Ret’d Mark Phillips attended the launch of Caribbean Wellness Week

The PM further shared, “Guyana has also introduced a robust telemedicine programme, which allows GPHC, New Amsterdam, and Bartica Hospitals to provide real-time consultations to patients remotely. A telemedicine pilot is also underway with four health centres in Region Nine.”

Director of Human Development at Caricom, Helen Royer also reflected that the current reality shows the region experiencing a mortality problem, brought on by NCDs, poor diets, and the increased use of alcohol and tobacco. She added that it is time to look at solutions that can turn around the figures and see improved results in communities.

Moreover, UN Resident Coordinator Yeşim Oruç reiterated that Sustainable Development Goals are linked to positive health outcomes and investments. Oruç relayed that stigma in mental health is one of the most important social challenges.

“Stigma in mental health conditions continues to be one of the most difficult public health and social challenges we grapple with. Although they are very common people living with mental health conditions often experience discrimination and are treated differently because of fear, misunderstanding, sometimes judgment.”

She added that UN agencies are working with the Ministry to integrate mental health concerns, and international health policies and support people to overcome these challenges.

“We hope that we can use today’s message of health in our neighbourhood to encourage individual and collective action that is supportive of people needing our support, that is, people struggling with mental health issues.”

Apart from the symposium and health fair, the Health Ministry also signed a charter to promote healthy living through organisations and agencies.