Guyana hopes to detect, fight diseases more rapidly

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There are numerous challenges confronting the local healthcare system and Health Minister Dr. Frank Anthony believes that stronger surveillance systems are needed for the local healthcare system to be able to better prevent, treat and manage chronic non-communicable diseases.

“We don’t get real-time information, there’s always a time lag and sometimes because of that we’re not able to respond appropriately to some of these infectious diseases and that’s something we have to change,” Dr. Anthony said while addressing the National Health Surveillance Symposium on Tuesday at the Pegasus Corporate Suites, Kingston, Georgetown.

Dr. Anthony underscored that the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of a very responsive surveillance system in the health sector.

While the system addresses infectious diseases, he, however, noted that it does not similarly extend to chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which include diabetes and cancers.

“If we are going to get a better understanding of these chronic non-communicable diseases, then we have to put a stronger surveillance system in place,” he said.

Referencing diabetes, the Health Minister noted that many persons visit local clinics to treat the disease. However, there is not a strong system of collecting information.

“We don’t have a very strong and robust system of collecting that information – aggregating it – so that we know exactly how many people we are treating. So that we have to change,” he said.

He underscored that such a system is also equally important for the whole range of chronic non-communicable diseases including but not limited to hypertension and cardiovascular diseases.

“When we look at the information that we have in our cancer registry, it’s dated and that’s because there’s no real-time collection of information.

“There’s a delay sometimes by months, sometimes by years, and because of that our registry is not able to give us accurate information,” Dr. Anthony said.

Dr. Anthony told stakeholders at the conference that methods of improving data collection for chronic non-communicable is an important area which must be focused on during the conference.

He noted that data collection can help with prevention of diseases through identifying risk factors and risk markers associated with diseases and formulating interventions.

“We need to offer more efficient service, higher quality of service and we need to develop indicators to be able to monitor this,” Dr. Anthony said.

“When we think of surveillance, I think sometimes we focus on infectious diseases, which is very important, but they are other components of the healthcare system that we need to look at and collect data so that we have a more holistic system,”

Dr. Anthony highlighted that what is done with the data collected is as important as collecting the data.

“If we’re not collecting it to analyze it to make an intervention, to develop a policy, to change something … Whatever we’re doing we must collect the information and put it to use,” he said.

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