Guyana on PAHO priority list
-Director By Samantha Alleyne
Stabroek News
February 14, 2004

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Guyana is one of the five countries on PAHO's priority list and thereby benefits from more resources and attention.

This is according to Director of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) Regional Office for the World Health Organisation (WHO) Dr Mirta Roses Periago who spoke at a press briefing on Wednesday at Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel.

She said that at the top of the PAHO/WHO priority list is Haiti.

Some of the health issues being focused on by the organisation are maternal and child health, mental health and chronic illness.

She said mental health was singled out because it is a problem very evident in societies and there are things that could be done to prevent the illness.

Locally, the PAHO director said, her organisation can assist in the improvement of health services provided for mentally ill persons. PAHO is also looking at suicide rates since these are on the increase throughout the region. She said the burning issue with respect to this illness is depression, adding that in the US anti-depressive drugs are said to be the second most used, while in the Caribbean region, depression is a hidden illness.

HIV and AIDS and related illnesses such as tuberculosis also remain very important issues.

According to Dr Roses, the organisation will continue to mobilise more resources to strengthen the work done in the area of HIV and AIDS as well as strengthen the institutional facility of the Ministry of Health.

Dr Roses, who was sworn in as director on January 30 last year, said she feels that Guyana has put in place a very structured and wide programme in response to the epidemic.

Dr Roses was in Guyana for the PAHO/WHO Carib-bean Sub-Regional Man-agers' (SRMM) meeting held from February 9 to 12 and hosted by the organisation's representation in Guyana. It provides the opportunity for country representatives from the Caribbean and senior technical and administrative managers from the PAHO Headquarters in Washington DC, to examine how the organisation can extend and strengthen its technical cooperation at the sub-regional level to better benefit the countries.

"This means explicit commitment to strategies that achieve results, cause changes in countries and bring about improved health outcomes, especially in the key countries designated in the PAHO Strategic Plan 2003-2007, which include Bolivia, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua and Guyana," the organisation said.

The meeting also addresses issues that continue to be of concern to the managers, for which there may be no `quick fixes', but for which, with collective input and determination, solutions will be found.

Dr Roses, the first female regional director, comes from Argentina. She started her career as a volunteer with the Red Cross and during her time at PAHO/WHO she has been stationed in the Dominican Republic and Bolivia.

PAHO is the world's oldest international public health agency and it celebrated its centennial in 2002.

Its technical cooperation in Guyana was formalised in October 1967 with the establishment of the country office. The Guyana office, now headed by Dr Bernadette Theodore Gandi is responsible for providing technical cooperation, which facilitates activities aimed at improving health conditions in Guyana.