KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, April 17, IWN – The Ministry of Health on Wednesday issued a statement responding to “recent claims in the media regarding the lack or absence of health education and promotion activities designed for persons with chronic diseases.
“These claims were made specifically regarding the management of diabetes and hypertension,” the Ministry said but did not identify the nature of the claims or where in the media they were disseminated.
The full text of the statement is below:
Statement by the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment
The Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment avails itself of this opportunity to refute recent claims in the media regarding the lack or absence of health education and promotion activities designed for persons with chronic diseases. These claims were made specifically regarding the management of diabetes and hypertension. We would, therefore, wish to share the following information with the public:
I. At the macro level, the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment has adopted as its key tool for the management of diabetes and hypertension regional guidelines developed by the Caribbean Health and Research Council. These guidelines were developed specifically for the Caribbean context and have a strong focus on health promotion, health education, and advocate meaningful involvement of patients in the management of their illness. This patient centered care involves the inclusion of patients in discussion of choice and action of pharmacological agents, setting chemical and other therapeutic targets, and it also aims to educate on the non-pharmacological management of diabetes and hypertension. These facts are quite evident in numerous communities across the country and bear testimony to our efforts in this regard.
II. There is a national formulary committee which meets regularly to look at our national therapeutic formulary regarding the management of hypertension and diabetes, and this committee makes recommendations based on available best practices and recommendations from the World Health Organisation. These discussions are usually very inclusive, robust and consultative. Recommendations are solicited from medical practitioners at both the primary and secondary levels. This process allows for the development of a most effective, scientifically sound and well circulated formulary. This translates into extensive knowledge about the contents of the formulary by physicians, and greater opportunities for educating the general public.
III. Further to the actions mentioned hitherto, we are pleased to state that all preliminary activities have been concluded to roll out another initiative designed to strengthen patient centered care and education. This involves the adding of glucose testing materials to formulary, and making them available for use by patients in their home setting. Patients are being taught how to use the equipment, how to interpret results and what actions are to be taken based on tests results.
IV. National Food based Dietary Guidelines for St. Vincent and the Grenadines were developed and launched five years ago. These guidelines, also available in a brochure form, speak to food groups, offers information on the different types of foods and portion sizes, articulate the caloric content of food, and offer advice on what foods to avoid. Apart from assisting patients with diabetes and hypertension, advocating healthy living and promoting healthy lifestyles at the community level, Community Nutrition Officers are available for group as well as individual dietary counseling. In-patients at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital have access to dietary counseling and are usually consulted during their in-patient stay. A new initiative being featured by the Nutrition Unit is one which focuses on healthy living and eating, and it aims to equip communities with skills and knowledge to achieve this goal. In this regard, there is a group in the community of Greiggs. Citizens are being educated on food safety, dietary guidelines, backyard farming and healthy eating and living, inter alia. Another group in this regard is to be started soon in Buccament. While we acknowledge that the number of community nutrition officers is limited, the role which they play in promoting healthy lifestyles and advising on diet cannot and must not be slighted.
V. As part of our community outreach and development, the Health Promotion Unit has initiated healthy ageing community groups. Two of these groups presently exist in Biabou and Park Hill, and another is to be started shortly on Bequia. This is essentially a patient and community centered initiative, aimed at empowering communities and building resilience among our ageing population. Citizens are involved in community exercise programmes, planning and implementing educational programmes, with a strong focus on chronic non-communicable diseases. The Health Promotion Unit continues to educate the public via the weekly Health Word programmes aired on NBC radio, We FM and Garifuna radio. Young people are also educated on CNCDs via the Youth Guidance programmes which are established in Kingstown, Fair Hall, Sandy Bay, Owia , Overland and Bequia.
VI. The Community Nursing Service plays a pivotal role in the delivery of health care in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Their role does not include only medical interventions. The nurses also play a vital role in advising patients on adherence and compliance, dietary requirements and generally keeping healthy. Each district nurse sets aside protected time to do counseling for patients with diabetes and hypertension. These sessions invariably involve not only patients, but also their significant others and care givers. An important and sometimes overlooked category of nurses are Nurse Practitioners. They possess key skills, not only in diagnosing and treating, but also in counseling patients, by virtue of their role in school health and promoting healthy lifestyles. They have access not only to individual patients but their families also. These Nurses are now responsible for prescribing blood glucose testing equipment and also for following patients with diabetes at the primary care level.
VII. Our primary care staff profile includes nurses who are trained in diabetic foot care. These nurses provide not only therapeutic services to clients, but they also teach self examination and home foot care to patients. This area of work augurs well for our country with a relatively high amputation rate.
While there remains room for further development in the education and empowerment of our patients with chronic non-communicable diseases, we must indeed recognize and highlight what we are doing, and also compliment our staff on our achievements, and set plans to further develop our primary care system to meet the needs of our population.