Disease burden study finds Guyana among worst performers in region

Guyana falls among the worst performers in Latin America and the Caribbean, the others at the bottom being Guatemala and Haiti, according to the Global Burden of Diseases Injuries and Risk Factors study 2010, released by the World Bank yesterday.

The study, which the World Bank said is the largest systematic scientific effort in history to quantify levels and trends of health loss due to diseases, injuries and risks, serves as a global public good to inform evidence-based policymaking and health systems design.

It found that in general, longevity had increased in the Latin America and the Caribbean region, with the exception of young males, who are dying as a result of interpersonal violence and road accidents.

According to the study, among countries in the region, the leading causes of disease burden were “as diverse as HIV/AIDS in Belize and Jamaica, diabetes in Dominica and Mexico, and ischemic heart disease, or coronary artery disease, in Cuba, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic. When comparing rates of diseases and injuries across countries and taking into account differences in population growth and ages, Costa Rica, Cuba, and Chile performed best while Guatemala, Guyana, and Haiti performed the worst.”

In its profile overview of Guyana, the study revealed that ischemic heart disease, HIV and cerebrovascular disease were the highest ranking causes of death in 2010.

In the 20 years between 1990, when the last study was completed and the current one, self-harm (suicide), interpersonal violence and road injury rose 2, 3 and 6 places respectively on the list of causes of premature death. HIV rose 29 places, ischemic heart disease 3 places, stroke 2 places and diabetes 6 places to top the list.

Dietary risk was found to be the leading factor in Guyana accounting for the most disease burden. This was followed by high blood pressure, high fasting plasma glucose (diabetes), high body mass index (obesity), alcohol use and smoking. Among children under 5, the leading risk factor was suboptimal breast feeding.

According to the report, when compared with 14 other countries of the same income per capita Guyana came in at 11. Its score was 12 for life expectancy and 13 for health adjusted life expectancy (life expectancy incorporates mortality and health adjusted life expectancy further incorporates years lived in less than ideal health), according to the report.
The Global Burden of Diseases Injuries and Risk Factors study 2010, a collaboration of the Seattle, Washington-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) and the World Bank Group was a collaborative effort among 488 researchers from 303 institutions in 50 countries. As regards the region, the study found that potentially preventable risk factors including poor diet, high blood pressure, and alcohol use were fuelling the changing disease burden.

The findings reveal that similar to global trends, communicable, maternal, nutritional, and newborn diseases are becoming less important in the region as non-communicable diseases kill more people prematurely and cause increasing disability.  A press release from the World Bank quotes Director of Health, Nutrition and Population Timothy Evans as saying, “The rapid shifts in disease burden place poor people in low and middle-income countries at high risk of not having access to appropriate services and incurring payments for health care that push them deeper into poverty.

“The data in these new reports are critical inputs to the efforts of policymakers in countries towards universal health coverage that aim to improve the health of their people, communities, and economies.”

The report also highlights other critical health issues: injuries from traffic accidents and violence. Brazilian men, for instance, lost nearly 3 million years of healthy life in 2010 as a result of interpersonal violence. In Mexico, loss of healthy life caused by interpersonal violence ranked the highest in 2010, while road traffic injuries ranked third.

The Global Burden study was supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The release noted that in this region, the World Bank partners with countries and organisations to tackle the main causes of burden of disease through knowledge, convening, and financing services.  A regional study focusing on lessons learned from initiatives promoting healthy lifestyles and preventing chronic diseases will be published in November, it added and in that same month, together with the Pan American Health Organisa-tion, the World Bank will bring together policy makers and experts to highlight the importance of multi-sectoral efforts to promote healthy living.

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