A newly launched study will investigate ways to reduce non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes and high blood pressure, which cause more than 60 per cent of deaths in the Caribbean.
Researchers from King’s College London, the University of Guyana, NYU School of Medicine, Ross University Dominica and the University of the West Indies hope a new approach – training members of religious congregations who are embedded in the local communities – will increase the reach of health services and reduce deaths.
This could be a powerful strategy to increase the reach of primary care and ultimately reduce preventable deaths
Professor Seeromanie Harding, Principal Investigator
The Caribbean epidemic of NCDs is the worst in the Americas. Deaths have continued to increase over the last two decades, driven by lifestyle choices, poor adherence to medication, and a fragile under-resourced health system that is struggling to ensure effective delivery of healthcare interventions.
Working in Guyana, Jamaica, and Dominica the project aims to recruit almost 100 health advocates who have close links with religious congregations. Supervised by a nurse they will be trained in several tasks, including promoting physical activity, healthy food choices and patient care.
Researchers from the UK and Caribbean propose that the moral and ethical status of Places of Worship (PoW) within communities can enhance acceptability, reach and sustainability of healthcare, enabling early detection of NCD’s, improve management of diseases and reduce social inequalities in access to services.
Seeromanie Harding, Professor of Social Epidemiology and Nutrition at King’s College London and Principal Investigator on the Project, said: ‘This could be a powerful strategy to increase the reach of primary care and ultimately reduce preventable deaths. We hope that by working with local partners we can demonstrate the benefits of such initiatives to health professionals and communities.’
The study is part of the Health Systems Research Initiative, which is funded by the Department of International Development (DFID), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Wellcome Trust (WT).
Discussing the trial, programme coordinator Dr Reeta Gobin, University of Guyana, said: ‘The study is a wonderful opportunity to identify ways in which common strategies may be adapted to suit diverse settings.’
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Gallery image credits courtesy of Dr Bibi Hussain