Presidential Commission to address chronic diseases launched

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Moving towards a healthier population, Head of State, David Granger this morning launched the Presidential Commission on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs).

According to the Ministry of the Presidency, almost seven out of every ten deaths of Guyanese, aged 23-60 years, are caused by cancers, chronic lung diseases, diabetes, heart disease and hypertension.

In a statement on the launch hosted at the Umana Yana, President Granger was quoted saying “the public must be better informed of the need for lifestyle changes and choices in order to reduce risk…NCDs are a pressing problem and unfortunately, the burden falls mainly on the poor… Reducing risk factors, therefore, will not only save lives but will save money.”

It was pointed out that the major causes are uncontrolled use of tobacco and alcohol and poor eating habits which has serious economic implications, particularly in rural and hinterland communities.

To reduce incidences of NCDs, the President outlined a three-pronged which includes public awareness on the dangers of alcohol and tobacco, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity; promulgation of initiatives led by all sections of society especially the media, stakeholders in the entertainment industry and trade unions; and a comprehensive and multi-sectoral approach to implement prevention and control measures.

The President, who will chair the Commission said it can succeed “if it is based on better information, more initiatives on the part of all of society and the implementation of campaigns aimed mainly on our children.”

Meanwhile, Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence, pointed out that based on a report submitted to the CARICOM Heads of Government Summit in July, Guyana ranks first in terms of the prevalence and deaths as a result of heart disease and diabetes.

Pointing to the Tobacco Control Bill, she said her Ministry in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO) has already commenced work with regard to tackling NCDs.

Additionally, the statement said Lawrence committed to implement measures to abolish the marketing of tobacco to minors and eliminate exposure to second-hand smoking in all public spaces with the help of the Commission.

“Other actions will be taken against other risk factors, especially those that affect children and youths,” it noted.

Similar sentiments were expressed by PAHO/WHO Country Representative, Dr. William Adu-Krow, who explained that the task of the Commissioners on this body includes the development of policies, advising the President and the Public Health Minister on existing gaps in NCDs that must be addressed and helping all sectors and civil society to intensify efforts to fight this scourge.

A section of the gathering at the Umana Yana

In 2007, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) convened a special Regional Summit on NCDs in the Caribbean, which resulted in regional leaders issuing a fifteen-point declaration, known as the Declaration of Port-of-Spain. That Declaration urged the establishment of National Commissions on NCDs to plan and coordinate the comprehensive prevention and control of NCDs. In fulfilment of that Declaration, Guyana developed the Guyana Strategic Plan for the Integrated Prevention and Control of Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases and their Risk Factors 2013-2020.

Subsequently, in 2014, the then Government established a National Commission for the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases. However, President Granger today said that it would be impossible to ensure satisfactory standards of public health unless the highest priority was accorded to the prevention and control of NCDs.

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