Youth must be primary target in addressing non-communicable diseases – Lawrence

The youth population must be the primary target in addressing the scourge of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

The Department of Public Information (DPI) said that this was one of the points made by Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence yesterday at a two-day consultation on NCDs at the Marriott Hotel.

DPI said that the  Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/ WHO) collaborated with the office of Planning and International Engagement of the University of Guyana on the forum. Those engaged include representatives from the university, government agencies, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and private entities.

Volda Lawrence, Minister of Public Health (DPI photo)
Some of the participants gathered at the Marriott Hotel during day one of consultations (DPI photo)

DPI said that the overall intention of the consultation is to create synergies between government and NGOs in health promotion and social development.

Lawrence told the consultative gathering that the youth population must be the primary target in tackling NCDs. The Minister highlighted statistics which show that Guyana’s situation is reflecting an increased incidence of NCDs.

She also said that apart from the four known NCDs, “we also must address mental health, and … accidents. Many times, we don’t relate them but they are related and I am talking about accidents at home and also road accidents.” Lawrence said that childhood obesity, depression, misuse and abuse of drugs and suicide should also be targeted.

Lawrence said that the vast majority of behaviours and addiction that underlie NCDs surface  during adolescence. “Global/national trends indicate that these NCD related behaviours are on the rise, and these established behaviours persist throughout life and are difficult to change (tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, poor eating habits, and lack of exercise)”, she declared.

She noted that  “Data from the Guyana Global School Health Survey 2010 revealed that 15.6 per cent of students ages 13 through 15 were overweight, 7.5 percent was underweight while 4.5 percent was obese. Intake of fruit and vegetables, minimal and about 70 per cent drank carbonated drinks. 2.1 percent drank alcohol regularly and 32 percent occasionally over a 30-day period.”

Another statistic cited was that 79 percent of students had their first alcoholic drink before age 14, and in most cases, parents would have had a significant role to play in the initiation of alcohol use.

Lawrence noted that, “According to the Guyana Global Youth Tobacco Survey 2015, 14.8 percent of students currently use tobacco products, 19 percent boys and 10.4 percent girls.  Eleven-point seven percent of students currently smoke tobacco, 16.1 percent boys and 7.5 percent girls and some 8.6 percent of students currently smoke cigarettes 13.3 percent boys and 3.8 percent girls.”

The Minister reiterated the need for intervention at all levels, to tackle the issue of NCDs.



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