HEARTS programme expands to strengthen management of cardiovascular disease


To further strengthen the management of non-communicable diseases which is the leading cause of death in Guyana, the national HEARTS programme was expanded to include the management of cardiovascular diseases.

The focus of the national Hearts programme is to train healthcare providers with the necessary tools to recognise, diagnose, and treat patients who have non-communicable diseases.

Over 100 centres countrywide have adopted the initiative and currently cater to 36,160 patients. The initiative is a collaboration between the Ministry of Health’s Chronic Diseases Unit and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)/World Health Organisation (WHO).

Phase two of the initiative was officially launched on Friday at the Pegasus Hotel, where Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony, said it is necessary that the government manages these diseases so that lives can be saved.

From left: Dr Anselm Hennis, Director of Non Communicable Diseases at PAHO; Minister of Health, Dr Frank Anthony; PAHO/WHO Representative, Luis Codina (Photo: Ministry of Health)

“One of the things that we need to do is to really appraise where we are and then look at how we can intervene to have the greatest impact of what we are doing.

“This is not something that we can wait for some time and then try to implement. We have in many ways, a big challenge ahead of us and if we don’t work to fix it, it’s going to get worse,” the Health Minister said.

Dr Anthony noted that for many years, non-communicable diseases were neglected and focus was heavily placed on infectious diseases only. Now, however, the Health Ministry has placed significant focus on the development of strategies to target diseases such as hypertension and now, with the expansion, cardiovascular diseases.

The National HEARTS initiative focuses on providing healthcare for patients with non-communicable diseases (Photo: Ministry of Health)

But he said there needs to be a focus on diabetes and chronic lung illnesses, and importantly the factors that lead to these diseases.

On Wednesday, a clinic was launched to provide tobacco smokers with the needed counseling to quit smoking. Smoking is a major factor leading to these diseases.

The minister pointed out that on many occasions, persons who have these diseases do not know until they visit the clinics.

“They show up when they have an acute condition and then you have to make more complicated interventions.

“We want to have a continuum of care that allows us from primary healthcare to work to make sure that we have the same systems in place to prevent these things from happening. But if they do happen, that at the primary healthcare level, secondary and tertiary, we have the requisite systems to take care of people,” the minister said.

The HEARTS Technical Package comprises six modules and an implementation guide that helps healthcare providers. This is to standardize the level of care provided and prevent the possibility of patients restarting treatments. This means all healthcare facilities are aware of the methods of treatment for particular diseases.

Notably, Dr. Anthony warned that it is the duty of healthcare providers to ensure that they are careful when recommending treatments for patients. He said what is said at one clinic should be the ‘message’ at the others.

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