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PAHO Director arrives for five-day visit

Chief Medical Officer, Ministry of Health Dr. Shamdeo Persaud, Director, Pan American Health Organisation, Dr. Carissa Etienne and Minister of Health, Dr. Bheri Ramsaran at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (GINA photo)

Pan American Health Organisation Director, Dr. Carissa Etienne, arrived in Guyana last evening for an official visit from September 10 to 14. She accepted an invitation extended by the Minister of Health, Dr. Bheri Ramsaran.

As he welcomed her at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Minister Ramsaran stressed on the activities planned for the event which will use the strength of youths to move them forward. 

Giving a background of the Caribbean Wellness day, the Minister stated that the Port of Spain declaration in 2007 pushed the Heads of Government to mandate the mobilisation of citizens, young and old, to engage in activities that will promote and sustain healthy lifestyles. Noting that all Caribbean nations now observe the occasion, he added that Guyana traditionally holds its observance at the Square of the Revolution. This occasion, he noted has attracted an increasing number of participants from the health sector, Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and other groups.

Minister Ramsaran noted that while Guyana has incorporated physical activities in its observances, this has caught the imagination of the youthful population. 

A long distance cycle race is planned which will be started off by Dr. Etienne, who will also kick-off a football competition on Wellness Day. He emphasised that such activities will play a part in the Wellness celebration with Guyana placing healthy sporting activities in the centre of the celebrations.

Health literacy has also been placed as a component of the celebrations, he stated, adding that this campaign is already on the move. Pointing to the launching of the National Presidential Commission on Non-Communicable Diseases (NPC- NCDs) with which Dr. Etienne will assist President Donald Ramotar, Dr. Ramsaran stated that the commission will serve to establish the highest political ownership of the fight against the epidemic of NCDs which will be buttressed by the creation of a unit within the Ministry of Health. The National Commission will be supported by 30 commissioners.

He added that the fresh approach of mobilising the efforts of youths to fight the NCDs through the launch of the Wellness Warriors Club will enable them taking health literacy nationwide. The youths will be trained in basic health screening techniques which will be taken to household levels, dispelling the ignorance of health basics.

Meanwhile Dr. Etienne in responding to Dr. Ramsaran pointed out that during her first visit she looks forward to observing and participating during Wellness Day activities, whilst also meeting Government and CARICOM officials.

She expressed interest in the work which will be conducted during the event, noting that chronic diseases are prevalent in the Caribbean, as well as Guyana. Observing that many persons have died due to these illnesses in Guyana, Dr. Etienne stated that this has been of concern of CARICOM Heads, and she is pleased that Guyana is placing NCDs at the top of the agenda.

Pointing out that the Port of Spain Declaration, as well as the UN General Assembly has recognised the problem of NCDs, she said it requires inter-sectoral action and Government attention. Dr. Etienne indicated that it is through this that the challenges can be surmounted.

She also urged that the private sector, civil society and all individuals become involved in the fight against the NCDs. Dr. Etienne pointed to the five risk factors identified which are tobacco smoking, excessive usage of alcohol, physical inactivity, diet and obesity. She noted that these features must be confronted lest the population is faced with less life expectancy which will affect the country’s social development.

Dr. Etienne’s visit coincides with national activities planned in commemoration of Caribbean Wellness Day which is observed on September 13, and Wellness Week in the Americas.

 During the period of the Director’s visit, the Ministry of Health will launch the National Presidential Commission on Non-Communicable Diseases (NPC NCDs) and the Wellness Warriors Club on September 12, at the Guyana International Conference Centre, Liliendaal. 

 Dr. Etienne will also meet with the President, Government and UN Officials during her visit.