Cognizant of the fact that cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are leading causes of death globally and that Guyana is not immune, the Ministry of Public Health has approached PAHO/WHO to introduce locally its HEARTS technical package, which provides a strategic approach to improving heart health.
The process got underway yesterday, with a two-day workshop convened at the Marriott Hotel, which saw primary health care doctors from all 10 regions gathered to be introduced to the package and be tasked with helping to chart the way forward as it becomes functional in Guyana.
According to WHO, the HEARTS package comprises six modules and an implementation guide. The package supports Ministries of Health to strengthen CVD management in primary health care settings.
“The practical, step-by-step modules are supported by an overarching technical document that provides a rationale and framework for this integrated approach to the management of NCDs,” WHO says.
The HEARTS technical package is part of the broader Global Hearts Initiative, which includes two other packages that address the prevention of CVDs. Its modules were developed under the auspices of the Global Hearts Initiative, led by WHO and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to Dr. Kenneth Connell, who along with Donald DiPette have been hired by PAHO as consultants to introduce the package, the aim of the workshop is to improve the performance of health care delivery teams in order to better cardiovascular disease outcomes.
The workshop also aims to build the capacity of health care providers to manage and appropriately treat cardiovascular diseases. The participants will also be asked to identity and manage key barriers to optimal blood pressure control within their various regions.
Importantly, they will be asked to produce a draft treatment algorithm that will help to aid in the process.
According to Dr. Paul Edwards, who gave opening remarks on behalf of PAHO at the workshop, it was in the quest to reduce morbidity and mortality from CVDs and strengthen the overall health sector response of treatment and prevention of such diseases, that support was requested from PAHO/WHO to strengthen the capacity of health care providers working in primary health care to adequately manage CVDs.
He noted that in Guyana, the five leading causes of death are heart disease, hypertension, stroke, diabetes and cancer.
Most of these are interrelated.
Guyana, he noted, is not immune to globalization, as western lifestyles have infiltrated the country’s culture, causing unhealthy modifications to diets, and citizens now consuming more food, high in trans fats and salt. Citizens also now spend hours in front of the television or computer.
Importantly, he noted that most cardiovascular diseases can be prevented by addressing behavioural practices but those who already have diseases or have one or more of the risk factors need early detection and management.
He said the WHO has identified low cost prevention and control methods for cardiovascular diseases, which include: comprehensive tobacco control policies, taxation to reduce the intake of foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt, building walking and cycle paths to increase physical activities, strategies to reduce the harmful intake of alcohol, and providing healthy school meals to children.
Dr. Edwards noted that globally, cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death, as an estimated 70.9 million persons died of such diseases in 2016, representing 31% of all global deaths. Of those deaths, 85% were as a result of heart attacks and stroke and three quarters occurred in low and middle income countries.
“This phenomenon occurs because people in these countries often do not have the benefit of integrated cardio care programmes for early detection, treatment of risk factors, compared to those individuals who live in high income countries,” he said.
He further pointed out that those persons living in low and middle income countries who suffer from CVDs and other non-communicable diseases have less access to effective healthcare services which respond to their needs. As a result, many times the disease is detected late and the patients die younger (often in their most productive years) from CVDs and other non-communicable diseases.
According to the PAHO representative, sufficient evidence exists to show that such diseases contribute to poverty due to catastrophic health spending and high out of pocket expenditure.
Since September 2016, the global HEART initiative has been rolled out in a number of countries and in those countries, health workers are being trained to deliver better tested and affordable measures to protect people from CVDs and help them to recover following a heart attack or stroke.