President ups ante against `lifestyle’ diseases by chairing commission

-cites drinking and smoking classes

President David Granger (eight from left) and Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence (seventh from left) with the Commissioners of the Presidential Commission for the Prevention of Non-Communicable Diseases. Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Shamdeo Persaud and PAHO/WHO Country Representative, Dr. William Adu-Krow are at third and fourth from left respectively. (Ministry of the Presidency photo)

President David Granger today upped the ante against `lifestyle’ or non-communicable diseases (NCDs) by agreeing to Chair a commission on what he said was a pressing problem.

According to a release from the Ministry of the Presidency, he unveiled a three-pronged approach aimed at reducing the incidence of NCDs at the launching of the commission at the Umana Yana. The strategy encompasses countrywide public information on the dangers of alcohol and tobacco, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity; launching of initiatives led by all sections of society especially the media, stakeholders in the entertainment industry and trade unions and a multi-sectoral approach to implement prevention and control measures.

“The Presidential Commission has a lot of work to do in these three areas and its work will be decisive in determining the extent to which we can enjoy a good life in Guyana… This Presidential Commission on Non-Communicable Diseases can succeed if it is based on better information, more initiatives on the part of all of society and the implementation of campaigns aimed mainly on our children. I would like to see a nation of happier children and healthier communities,” he told the gathering.

Granger said that as a result of lifestyle and “cultural carelessness”, more than half of the country’s adult population suffer from a NCD. Almost seven out of every ten deaths of Guyanese, aged 23-60 years, are caused by cancers, chronic lung diseases, diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. Additionally, uncontrolled use of tobacco and alcohol and poor eating habits have serious economic implications, particularly in rural and hinterland communities.

“The public must be better informed of the need for lifestyle changes and choices in order to reduce risk… NCDs are a serious threat to life and the leading cause of premature death. NCDs are a pressing problem and unfortunately, the burden falls mainly on the poor… Reducing risk factors, therefore, will not only save lives but will save money,” the President declared.

In 2007, CARICOM called a special Regional Summit on NCDs which resulted in regional leaders issuing a fifteen-point declaration, known as the Declaration of Port-of-Spain. Subsequently, in 2014, the then Government established a National Commission for the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases. However, yesterday’s release stated that Granger said that it would be impossible to ensure satisfactory standards of public health unless the highest priority was accorded to the prevention and control of NCDs.

“That is why I have come here today to lend my name and my Office so that children everywhere, schools, adults, the drinking classes, the smoking classes will know that it is at the level of the President himself that attention will be paid to NCDs and the prevention of NCDs,” he said.

Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence, in her remarks said that the report issued at the CARICOM Heads of Government Summit in July, showed that Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago were ranked as first and second respectively, in terms of the prevalence and deaths as a result of heart disease and diabetes.

She said that the President’s acceptance to serve as chair is proof of his commitment to ensuring that Guyanese enjoy a better quality of life.

According to the press release, the Minister also informed that her Ministry in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO) has already begun work with regard to tackling NCDs with the passage of the Tobacco Control Bill. With support from the Presidential Commission, the Ministry plans to implement measures to abolish the marketing of tobacco to minors and eliminate exposure to second-hand smoking in all public spaces.

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