…as draft comprehensive health plan being reviewed
By Vishani Ragobeer
THOUGH the COVID-19 pandemic demands much of the health sector’s attention, the myriad of other health issues should not be neglected and that is why focus has been directed to the creation of a Comprehensive Health Plan, according to Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony.
“We have a draft (of the health plan) that was done and the directors of the (Health Ministry) have been going through and adding comments to it,” Dr. Anthony said during a recent interview with the Sunday Chronicle.
This plan, the minister explained, covers many sub-sectors with the local health sector. Much focus has been directed to Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, cancer and hypertension. According to the Health Ministry’s Strategic Plan for NCD Prevention and Control (2013 – 2020), which was done under former Minister of Health, Dr. Bheri Ramsaran, statistics show that NCDs accounted for over 60 per cent of deaths amongst males and over 70 per cent of deaths amongst females in 2009. In 2020, the Pan-American Health Organisation’s (PAHO)’s NCDs progress monitor for Guyana stated that 4,400 deaths (or 68 per cent of all deaths) were caused by NCDs.
Previously, the Health Minister told this newspaper that many efforts have been made over the years to tackle the prevalence of various types of cancers in Guyana but much more work is still needed. Key areas in need of improvement include screening capabilities with a focus on pathology in order to classify the cancers and stage them; laboratory capabilities and the type and quality of treatment offered (such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy). And, of course, greater focus has to be placed on preventive measures.
Another key focus of this plan will be on infectious diseases, including those neglected diseases such as Lymphatic Filariasis (commonly called filaria).
“We’re trying to cover the range of activities we do in the Ministry and so forth and to ensure that we put different plans and programmes to handle those,” Dr. Anthony emphasised.
Aside from improving the existing services offered in treating and preventing health issues, the minister emphasised that it is imperative that the healthcare sector takes a more proactive approach to focus on those sectors that have not been traditional priorities.
Health research will be one area that much more focus will be placed on, cognisant that clinical and programmatic research are crucial components of improving the local standards in health. This will allow for better approaches to healthcare and better monitoring and evaluation of health programmes.
Research into the interventions for the NCDs that will be included in the comprehensive health plan could allow the ministry to analyse how successful these efforts are and how they can be improved in the future, for example. A greater focus on research could also allow Guyana to contribute to the medical field regionally and internationally.
While the Ministry is currently focused on preparing for the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines and the further management of the coronavirus, further scrutiny of this health plan will be done this month. Dr. Anthony ascertained that the improvements to the services offered in the health sector would be made this year.