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Seven-year Non Communicable Diseases strategy launched

Minister of Health, Dr. Bheri Ramsaran at the launch of the Strategic Plan for the Integrated Prevention and Control of Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases and their risk factors strategy 2013-2020, at Duke Lodge (GINA photo)

The Ministry of Health in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO) on Monday launched the Guyana Strategic plan for the Integrated Prevention and Control of Chronic Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) and their risk factors strategy 2013-2020.

The official document for the plan was handed over to Minister of Health, Dr. Bheri Ramsaran by PAHO/WHO representative, Adrianus Vlugman at the launching ceremony which was held at the Roraima Duke Lodge, Duke Street, Kingston.

The plan’s guidelines and policies which when implemented will see a reduction of chronic diseases and related risk factors in Guyana.

Minister Ramsaran said that the launch was significant and forms part of the growing partnership between the Ministry and PAHO/WHO, a long standing partner of the health sector.

Minister Ramsaran stated that the ministry fully endorses the plan and will be vigorously implementing those policies through various physical and educational programmes. “To make this sustainable we have to have health in all policies….we must have the whole of Government and society’s efforts involved,” Minister Ramsaran pointed out.

Heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and chronic respiratory diseases, common NCDs are responsible for the deaths of about 36 million people every year due to poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking and excessive alcohol intake.

Minister Ramsaran added that while the strategy is good, the ministry will be looking at other programmes to ensure that persons lead an active lifestyle.  He said that the workplace plays a major role in the daily lives in most persons, and urged that employers make available the necessary space for physical activities for their employees.

The “Wellness Warriors” club, which is expected to be launched in a few days’ time, will be facilitating several physical activities. Minister Ramsaran said that the ministry is currently looking at land space close to the ministry on Brickdam to establish a wellness park so as to promote physical activities for agencies in that vicinity.

The ministry will also be engaging schools to adopt the concept of Wellness Warriors and to ensure that the country’s youths live a healthy lifestyle through physical education and recreational activities.

“We hope that we will be able to train every senior student in such a way that they will be competent to be able to test blood pressure and sugar so you will not have a nurse or medex doing such simple task,” the minister said.

He further stated that the ministry will also be clamping down on the school canteens and enhancing its policy so as to have the students purchase healthier food.

The ministry intends to heighten the strategy by working with larger groups of organised persons such as Qualfon, and the banks.

He expressed gratitude to PAHO/WHO and all those who had a part to play to make the Integrated Prevention and Control of Chronic non-communicable diseases and their risk factors (NCD) strategy a reality.

Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Shamdeo Persaud who gave an overview of the NCDs Strategy 2013-2020, stressed that a vast multi-sectoral approach is needed to ensure that the policies are effectively implemented. He said that the plan complements the numerous programmes that the ministry has in place to ensure that the nation’s people are healthy.

Meanwhile PAHO/WHO representative Vlugman also said that the launch was momentous and that the organisation was pleased that such an event was held as the ministry celebrated its 111th anniversary today.

“This plan is a great achievement,” he said, and that acknowledged that it will equip persons to stay healthy and prevent those diseases.

In 2005, the Conference of Heads of Government in CARICOM took a decision to convene a Summit that would facilitate a multi-sector, comprehensive and integrated response to the issue of NCDs in the Caribbean. In September 2007, at the CARICOM Summit on NCDs the Declaration of Port of Spain (POS) was pronounced under the theme of “Uniting to Stop the Epidemic of Chronic Non-communicable Diseases”.

This declaration provided a framework for policies and programmes across government ministries, the private sector, civil society, the media, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), academia and the community, “to make the right choice the easy choice.”

Since then, the Government of Guyana through the Health Ministry held numerous public and inter-Ministry consultations to establish a strategic plan. This draws on internationally recognised best practices and will achieve sustainability from the Administration’s well established commitment to funding the response and wider Ministry of Health initiatives to mobilise other partners.