Causes of Death in GuyanaIn Guyana, the life expectancy is anywhere from 64 to 69 years-old. However, the probability of death occurring before the age of 60 is much higher due to a number of health issues affecting the people of Guyana every day. The World Health Organization and The Pan American Health Organization have made substantial progress in lowering fatality rates caused by communicable disease and have since shifted focus to more chronic conditions. These are the top 10 causes of death in Guyana as listed by the HealthData.

10 Causes of Death in Guyana

  1. Ischemic/ Coronary heart disease (CHD) – CHD is characterized by narrowed arteries that disrupt the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart leading to heart attacks. This disease is caused by poor health habits such as drinking, smoking and inactivity. In Guyana, coronary diseases make up 32 percent of all deaths. To combat this issue, The Public Health Ministry of Guyana, The Canadian High Commission and Guyana Program for Advanced Cardiac Care are using PSAs to educate the population.
  2. Cerebrovascular disease (Stroke) – Strokes are attacks on the brain because oxygen and nutrients can’t reach the brain, which leads to the death of brain cells. The most common way to prevent a stroke is by adopting healthy dietary habits such as not smoking, exercising regularly and eating a predominantly vegetarian diet. A stroke doesn’t always result in death, but it can still cause a number of physical problems that require the availability of rehabilitation treatments.
  3. Diabetes Mellitus – In 2017, there were 52,400 cases of diabetes in Guyana, putting the prevalence of this disease at about 11.3 percent. Those most affected by diabetes are individuals between the ages of 45 and over. One strategy that has been taken to reduce the number of patients getting diabetes is the introduction of a tax on sugary beverages.
  4. Lower Respiratory Infection – According to The Guyana Budget & Policy Institute, respiratory infections make up for 31 percent of all child deaths between the ages of 0-1 in Guyana. Lower respiratory infections like pneumonia and bronchiolitis are the result of poor living conditions such as lack of hygiene, inaccessibility of clean water or sanitation as well as contact with unvaccinated individuals, which is common in Guyana.
  5. Self-harm/Suicide – Guyana has the third highest suicide rate in the world. In Guyana, the rate is 29 suicides per 100,000 deaths. It is also the second leading cause of death for youths between the ages of 15 and 24. Organizations like The National Suicide Prevention Plan and The Suicide Hotline are making efforts to improve mental health services, opening lines of communication and raising awareness about related factors such as alcohol abuse and mental health issues that can lead to suicidal thoughts.
  6. Hypertensive Heart Diseases – These are conditions that are caused most often by high blood pressure and include conditions such as heart failure, coronary artery disease and thickening of the heart muscle. According to an assessment study in Charleston, Guyana, hypertension is the major cause of death for individuals 45-64 years old. In the study, it was shown that 7 of the 22 subjects, who were between the ages of 27 and 78, had high blood pressure readings and benefited from receiving medication. Certain cases of hypertension can be greatly reduced through long-term efforts. Creating awareness through education such as seminars and workshops and making more heart-healthy foods can contribute to the reduction of these conditions.
  7. HIV/AIDS – In 2016, it was reported that 8,500 people were living with HIV. Almost 100 of those infected were children who had contracted it from their mother. To combat this, Guyana has received more financial support, which allowed for the development of treatment sites and more resources for Voluntary Counselling and Testing clinics. As a result, the availability of antiretroviral drugs had increased to 83.5 percent in 2008, and the prevalence of HIV/AIDS had decreased to 1.1 percent in 2011.
  8. Chronic Kidney Disease – This is on the list as one of the causes of death in Guyana because of associated costs. Screening and identification are insufficient to detect chronic kidney disease. As such, many Guyanese people end up being checked into emergency rooms for kidney failure. The Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation is able to provide transplants at no cost to patients, but patients have to pay the cost of cross-matching tests to find a suitable donor. These tests are currently done in the U.S. and cost least $1 million. In order to avoid kidney failure, it has been recommended to drink sufficient amounts of water and avoid the consumption of large amounts of alcohol.
  9. Road Injuries – According to World Health Rankings, road injuries have accounted for 2.05 percent of all deaths in Guyana. Furthermore, survivors of road accidents are left disabled and, therefore, can’t work, which creates financial instability. The estimated cost of care for accident victims is $100 million. Identified major factors include unlit roads, inexistence of sidewalks and bad driving habits.
  10. Interpersonal Violence – Guyanese people are encouraged to learn how to protect themselves and to seek help from authorities, especially since the police force has undergone a number of reforms such as modernization and more detailed instructions on how to deal with violence. The highest form of violence in Guyana is domestic violence towards women. The First Lady revealed that domestic partner violence has risen from 74.8 percent to 89 percent in just 6 years. As a result, she is increasing efforts to conduct research to find and address the root cause of this violence. She is also calling to educate and empower women in regions of Guyana where domestic violence is high. She is planning to enact The U.K. National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security to accomplish these goals.

Despite the efforts made to decrease communicable diseases, there still remains a number of conditions that are in need of attention since they continue to claim the lives of many Guyanese people. The goal, therefore, is to achieve higher life expectancy through the elimination of these non-communicable diseases as well as education and awareness of health risks due to violence, mental health issues, unsafe road conditions and preventable illness.

– Stephanie Singh
Photo: Flickr