Defeating the Silent Killers | Features Local

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said the HEART project, launched with support from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), aims to reduce patients' average blood pressure to 140/90.

“Fewer people are at risk of having a stroke or dying,” he said in his keynote speech at the opening of the Symposium on Primary Care for Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) at the Hilton Trinidad, St. Ann's, last Tuesday.

Also present were Senior Health Systems Advisor Dr Stewart Smith, T&TMA Public Relations Officer Dr Sandi Arthur, Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization PAHO/WHO Country Representative Dr Gabriel Vivas Francesconi and RHA CEOs including North Central Davlin Thomas, Garth Alexander TRNA, Angela Rampersad ERHA and SWRHA Anthony Blake. Dean of the Faculty of Medical Sciences Prof Terence Seemungal was also present. Non-communicable diseases include diabetes, cancer, mental illness and hypertension.

FULL SUPPORT: Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh welcomes PAHO/WHO representative Dr Gabriel Vivas Francesconi at the Non-Communicable Disease Primary Care Symposium at the Hilton Trinidad, Port of Spain. Looking on from left are Senior Health Systems Advisor Dr Stewart Smith, NCD Director Dr Marcia Clapperton and T&TMA Public Relations Officer Dr Sandi Arthur.

Smith said the symposium was designed to “build capacity as the existence of non-communicable diseases continues to affect quality of life”. They would cover topics such as Pap smears, breast cancer, prostate cancer, diabetes and chronic kidney care. Colombian Francesconi said it was “important to stop the epidemic” and that “about 70% of non-communicable diseases occur before the age of 70”. Clapperton said it was important to “empower health professionals”. Clapperton said prevention and early detection would reduce limb amputation. Speakers agreed that they wanted to “balance the burden of non-communicable diseases”.

They also paid their respects to the late ERHA CEO Ronald Tsoi-A-Fatt, who passed away on May 14 after a prolonged illness. His funeral was held on May 21 at the First Church of the Open Bible, Ruth Avenue, Les Efforts West, San Fernando.

A new drug on the drug list

Deyalsingh said: “Under the cardiac programme, we take our diabetics (triage) and put them through a special programme to treat hypertension. We set a cut-off point of 140 over 90 and anything above that, we give you special attention.”

He added: “From June 2023 to December 2023, 62,207 patients have enrolled. And the percentage that has increased from 37% to 48% represents a massive increase. So many people are less at risk of having a stroke or dying prematurely. We have added a drug to the drug registry that is in line with the cardiac program designed by PAHO. That has made a huge difference.”

Deyalsingh also said, “We have seen similar success in diabetes/wellness clinics, coming in (I don't have data) (with scores) of 14, 12, 10 and 7 and 8. We don't get the recognition we deserve, but that's OK with me. I know our health professionals in all five RHAs are doing their best.”

Helps “financially


On the benefits of accessing local healthcare, including the Chronic Assistance Disease Programme (CDAP), diabetes and cancer treatment and medications, Deyalsingh said: “Tell me which country in the world has such a generous programme? I don't know about you, but I appreciate this public healthcare system. I will continue to say that it is one of the best in the world; especially for the 'financially disadvantaged'. I will continue to defend it. And when we get it wrong, and that happens occasionally, tell us (the media/public). The picture that is always painted about it is far from reality.”