PAHO/WHO joins workplace wellness programme

PAHO/WHO yesterday launched its participation in the Workplace Wellness Programme for Chronic Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in an effort to get staff to pay more attention to their health, which would decrease their chances of falling victim to NCDs such as heart disease, diabetes, respiratory illness and cancers.

This is an initiative started by the Ministry of Health and so far some 60 organisations are on board. The aim is to have every single workplace in Guyana on board.

Speaking at a simple ceremony, PAHO representative Dr Beverley Barnett said that the importance of NCDs prevention and control at a global level is now being realized. She said that at the September UN high level meeting on NCDs there was a political declaration for the reduction of risk factors and the creation of health promoting environments. WHO was charged with following up and implementing this declaration.

Barnett said one of the healthy promoting environments being referred to is the workplace where we spend most of our time. She pointed out that individual screening to detect risk factors early so that these NCDs can be controlled and treated is extremely important.

At the individual level, she noted that knowing things such as one’s blood glucose level, blood pressure, body index, cholesterol level as well as family history are very important as they help to determine vulnerability to NCDs such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

She said the step by the ministry is a very important one and thanked the ministry for the invitation to participate in the programme.

While expressing hope that all PAHO staff members will take advantage of the new opportunity, Barnett said the initiative “pairs very nicely” with the organisation’s health and wellness programme which aims to create a healthy working environment for all PAHO personnel to prevent illness and maintain their health.

Meanwhile, in delivering the feature address, Minister of Health Leslie Ramsammy said the occasion represented continuing progress in the promotion of better health in our country particularly in the workplace.

He said that “given the fact that this initiative only started quite recently we have made very rapid progress”, adding that many workplaces are making requests for the programme. In this regard, he explained the ministry is actively collaborating with the Georgetown Public Hospital and health sectors across the region as well as the private sector to help.

He said that the programme is now a part of occupational, safety and health programme that the Labour Ministry has mandate for.

Minister Ramsammy noted that PAHO has a growing impact on Guyana and each year the collaboration increases.

“Today as we launch this programme there are very important things for us to bear in mind. One of them is that we have brought to people’s consciousness, diabetes, hypertension, heart diseases and certain cancers like breast cancer, cervical cancer,” he said. He noted that people are now very health conscious where cancer is concerned and enquire a lot about it.

Ramsammy said that in 2012, this programme will “add layers to it.” He explained that while the current focus is on diabetes, hypertension, heart diseases, breast cancer and cervical cancer, the ministry will target a problem that men face. This he said could be prostate cancer.

He explained that this cancer is number one in Guyana adding that “there are more prostate cancer cases reported on an annual basis than… breast cancer or cervical cancer”. According to him the reason for this might be that “men may not like to think of bad things”. He said too that women take the lead role in enquiring about this form of cancer and it would appear that they are more interested in their partner’s health than the men themselves. “Maybe men are interested but they just don’t want to talk about it,” he added.

“This is one of the layers we will add to our health communication and public awareness programme in terms of our workplace programme… Men should be interested in these things,” he said.

NCDs are commonly referred to as ‘lifestyle diseases’ and ‘silent killers’ as they remain undetected for a long time and are fuelled by unhealthy eating and lifestyle habits.

The Caribbean is the region of the Americas that is worst affected by NCDs and if the habits are not tackled now the situation will become out of hand. According to recently released figures 25 per cent of Caribbean people are obese, the same percentage is hypertensive and the prevalence of diabetes is more than 20 per cent in at least four countries, including Barbados.

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