Guyana on track to achieve MDGs in health sector
Guyana Chronicle – April 17, 2008
By Priya Nauth
MINISTER of Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, has assured that Guyana is on track in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) particularly child mortality and maternal health.
He made this disclosure yesterday during a press briefing yesterday at the Ministry of Health, Brickdam, Georgetown.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are eight in number to be achieved by 2015 that respond to the world’s main development challenges.
The goals are eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; achieve universal primary education; promote gender equality and empower women; reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; combat malaria and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability; and develop a global partnership for development.
The media was also briefed on a visit by Dr. Patricio Jamriska, contracted as a short-term consultant by the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) to work to discuss efforts to assist countries in developing a mobilisation and advocacy strategy to reduce child mortality and improve maternal health.
Dr. Jamriska will meet with influential policy makers, medical practitioners and visible personalities in education, academia and others to discuss the strategies to reduce child mortality and improve maternal health care.
The minister said that child mortality and maternal health are two of the priorities that Guyana has been advancing towards aggressively.
I want to make it very clear that Guyana has no intention of failing to meet our MDGs, in particular, maternal child care and we are on pace to achieve all goals,” he exhorted.
But he said that in spite of the progress and confidence of attaining the two goals, they are not going to allow themselves to fall in a false sense of security.
If we don’t persist in our efforts we can easily regress and we have no intention of doing so,” he pointed out.
He said Guyana would like to reach its goals prior to 2015 and have set its milestone between 2010 and 2012.
Dr. Ramsammy said in terms of maternal child care, they are working with PAHO/WHO to attain its objectives by 2012.
He said this year; they aim to meet certain significant strides including maternal mortality rate reaching single figure.
We have to be holistic in our approach in addressing the issues…one of our success stories in maternal child health is our immunization programme,” he stressed.
He said next week is Immunization or Vaccination Week of the Americas and the launching will be held in Lethem on Sunday.
The minister said representatives of Venezuela and Brazil will join the initiation which would be one of the official launching not just for Guyana.
ȂIt is a multi-country approach,” he pointed out.
He noted that one aspect of maternal child health that is rarely talked about in Guyana is syphilis – one of the very old sexually transmitted infections (STI).
Guyana has been fortunate that syphilis has remained at a relatively low prevalence, particularly in maternal child health, he posited.
However, he said, Guyana remains concerned about any disease that affect mothers and children hence it is still an area of concern to ensure new born do not have to suffer from syphilis.
Dr. Ramsammy underscored that the prevention of mother to child transmission programme is not restricted to HIV but any infectious disease particularly STIs.
He said health workers trained in the prevention of mother to child transmission are equipped to deal with all STIs.
Additionally, he disclosed that more than 150 health workers are trained in the syndromic diagnosis of STIs including syphilis.
He said the syndromic diagnosis is supported by an extensive laboratory programme and that neo-natal syphilis has now become a prominent child health issue in the global health and Guyana has to ensure that it is a part of that priority programme.
You do not have to have a crisis to make something a priority…we don’t want the crisis and so we will still be emphasising it so that it stays as a low case,” he explained.
Another issue, he said, is research, where less than 10 percent of research money is spent in developing countries.
The minister said they want to guarantee that Guyana plays a role in changing this and ensure more money is spent on research in the developing countries.
He said as part of encouraging more research in the country, all interns in the medical programme must complete a research project as a pre-requisite.
Dr. Ramsammy also congratulated the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation for its high level of research accomplished over the years.
He said that Guyana must set up structures to support research and research involving humans must be done in an environment where there are board of ethics and an internal review board.
He said no research should be permitted among humans unless the research project is review on ethical grounds and therefore a country needs an internal review board and Guyana has been working closely with the United States Centre for Disease Control and PAHO to build this capacity.
He informed the media that presently two highly qualified technical persons are in Guyana to assist in establishing an Internal Review Board for ethical review of research projects involving human beings.
Dr. Ramsammy said Guyana will have the structures and regulations that govern research among humans by the end of June this year.
He noted also that next week is also Laboratory Week in Guyana, which has been playing a leading role in highlighting the work of laboratory professionals.
He noted that this has not yet been recognised as a global observance but Guyana is one of the countries leading the way in establishing a time for the world to focus on laboratory science.
Dr. Ramsammy also observed that laboratory science has now become a critical part of the health care services.
The Health Minister also took the opportunity to clarify an issue in Kaieteur News published on Tuesday, which said that during his address at the opening of the Guyana Labour Union workshop on HIV/AIDS, he said Guyanese eat and drink too much and the way to deal with the rising food cost is to eat less.
He explained that the point he was trying to make is that our average calories intake is 2,400 but the recommended amount is 2,200.
Food security is not the issue but people eat too much of the wrong food, he asserted.
I made the point in my address that more than 60 percent of our population do not eat the recommended daily allowance of fruits and vegetables,” he reiterated.
He said he also touched on the issue of rising food costs which is a major challenge confronted globally and noted that Guyana does not face the issue of food shortage but rising food costs which are due to rising fuel prices, converting lands from food production to bio-fuels production and climate change.
He said Guyana has to look at ways to mitigate the rising food cost and it can exasperate the public to eat the wrong food since they might go for cheaper products.
PAHO Country Representative, Dr. Kathleen Israel, said that Guyana was not selected because of any specific problem but many countries are at risk of not achieving the MDGs with respect to maternal child care, she noted.
She noted that it was decided to visit countries and explore how they can improve the visibility of issue surrounding maternal and child mortality.
Dr. Jamriska, a former Minister of Health of Ecuador, said they want to ensure good conditions for the people and his visits to the various countries will seek to promote all partners to join and work hard towards achieving the MDGs.
He said one of the concerns is the quality of health care for mothers and children.