PAHO/WHO representative stresses Urgent need to control communicable diseases

Guyana Chronicle
May 25, 2000

URGENT steps must be taken to deal effectively with communicable diseases if this country's development, particularly in the eco-tourism sector, is to gain momentum.

This charge was delivered by Representative of the Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO), Dr. Bernadette Theodore Gandi.

She was at the time addressing the opening session of a joint PAHO/WHO Technical Evaluation Workshop in Guyana at Le Meridien Pegasus yesterday.

Citing examples of where health and development are closely linked, she said that diseases such as malaria cause significant morbidity and mortality. In addition to the individual and community suffering and economic loss to the family due to inability to work, it also affects the country's development.

"We are all aware of the opportunities for development in eco-tourism ... Without control of these communicable diseases, and the availability of good quality diagnostic and treatment facilities at a basic level, the tourism sector will be unable to compete in international markets," the PAHO/WHO official said.

Dr Gandi noted that the Region of the Americas which has experienced significant falls in the incidence of malaria, has shown that traditional approaches focused predominantly on vector control cannot succeed in controlling malaria or infectious diseases.

Dr. Gandi recommended approaches which have transcended the traditional focus, and which include work with the private and public sectors. Among the approaches are mobilising the community to take ownership of the problem and assisting persons to develop personal health skills.

She also cited early identification and treatment as approaches which have made a significant difference in reducing incidence and rolling back malaria.

Dr Gandi said that this approach is in consonance with the strategies outlined in the Caribbean Health Promotion charter, and applies not only to malaria, but the control of communicable and non-communicable diseases as well.

While endorsing the commitment of Member States to Health for All by the Year 2000, the health official noted that there is still a "significant road to travel". She reiterated that there is need for different approaches and "strategies that work".

This becomes clear when one examines the situation in the Americas, the PAHO/WHO official said. Investigations reveal that in the Americas, an evaluation of the degree to which the goals adopted for the period have been met, are not heartening. She noted that:

* disparities in health conditions have not been reduced, and

* universal access to healthy and safe environments and universal access to healthy and safe environments and universal coverage of water supply and sanitation services have not been achieved, and unhealthy lifestyles persist there.

Noting that within the Sub-region, many of the goals outlined in the Caribbean Cooperation in Health have been unmet, Dr Gandi said that PAHO/WHO has now moved to Caribbean Cooperation in Health Phase 2, which restates many of the goals, and outlines strategies to facilitate a more successful outcome.

The PAHO/WHO Representative said that on a broader scale, however, significant achievements have been made in Health. She said that the global advances in the effort to eradicate polio, which has been absent from the Americas since 1991, were paralleled by regional advances in the plan to eliminate measles from the continent. Life expectancy has also been increasing, she noted.

Dr Gandi said that the causes of ill health are multifactoral, and pointed out that any attempt to make an impact on health must involve all sectors: education, environmental conditions, socio-economic status, and employment.

"As we look at disease patterns and health experience, we realise that the major disease affecting our populations today is poverty," she concluded.

Follow the goings-on in Guyana
in Guyana Today