Georgetown, Guyana, 6 February 2017 (PAHO) - A new cooperation strategy between the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and Guyana sets out actions over the next three years to reduce the burden of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and strengthen the country's health system to advance toward universal health.

The strategy, signed today by PAHO Director Carissa F. Etienne and Minister of Health Volda Lawrence, was developed through a consultative process involving a range of national actors. The agreement is aligned with Guyana's 2013-2020 National Health Strategy "Health Vision 2020" and  is linked to related plans adopted by the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations and other collaboration partners, facilitating an intersectoral approach to priority health problems.

New PAHO Guyana Cooperation Strategy

"This strategy is strategically connected to the Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs], which seek to end poverty, protect our planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity," said Dr. Etienne, who is in Guyana this week for an official visit. "We can contribute to the country's development and help every person to achieve the highest attainable level of health."

The new agreement is the third cooperation strategy PAHO and the Government of Guyana have signed to identify priority medium-term health actions.

Minister of Public Health Lawrence said the strategy "will help the country face health challenges" and will contribute to "strengthening health services to advance closer to the goal of universal coverage." PAHO's technical cooperation, she added, will also "make it possible to reduce morbidity and mortality from noncommunicable diseases."

NCDs are the leading cause of illness and death in Guyana, although infectious diseases remain a significant burden. Violence and injuries, which include suicide, are among the country's top 10 causes of death and are also addressed in the new strategy.

Though Guyana faces many health challenges, it also has made significant progress in health. This includes increased life expectancy; reductions in infant and maternal mortality; reductions in chronic disease incidence, prevalence and mortality; high levels of vaccination coverage; greater awareness of environmental health; and improvements in water and sanitation infrastructure.

PAHO/WHO has a long history of cooperation with Guyana, dating back to before the country won its independence in 1966. PAHO/WHO Representative William Adu-Krow and PAHO Chief of Staff Merle Lewis participated in the signing ceremony, along with other staff from PAHO and Guyana's Ministry of Public Health.