The Contact Study Project, Congregations Taking Action Against NCDs, commenced the first of two 4-day workshop targeting health advocates in religious institutions in Region Three and equipping them with the relevant knowledge to address the scourge of Non-Communicable Diseases within their respective communities.Contact Study Project, Congregations Taking Action Against NCDs headed by UK based Guyanese, Professor Seeromanie Harding of the King’s College London is the organiser of the workshop. The Public Health Ministry is funding the four-day workshop, at the Regency Hotel training 18 religious health advocates to address NCDs.Public Health Minister Volda LawrenceProfessor Harding speaking at the launching of the workshop on Monday said that there has been a rise in the prevalence of Non-Communicable Diseases, which presents a major challenge for the developing and under developed nations. She noted that the aim is to change the system so that it could reach the masses and noted that Guyana is the ideal place for that change.The professor further stated that they are training the health advocates so that they can go out and empower their communities through their religious institutions.“What we are doing here is quite unique and novel, and Guyana is quite facilitating. What we are trying to do is to change a system and empower communities to make sure that the changes are transparent, they are accountable, they are in line with the values and beliefs of the communities. We have a very strong sense of religion and we are delighted to have their participation,” she said.Meanwhile, country representative of the Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation, Dr William Adu-Krow, noted that Guyana have a problem when it comes to NCDs. He noted that there an average of 4,000 deaths per year, in Guyana, due to NCDs with 28 percent counting as premature deaths.A section of the Health Advocates at the opening of the 4 day workshopAdditionally, Dr Adu-Krow stated that despite vast availability of exercise spaces and fresh fruits and vegetables Guyanese often discards that hence contributing to high blood pressure, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases in most cases.Public Health Minister, Volda Lawrence told participants that the workshop is timely since it was just last month that President David Granger charged the Presidential Commission on NCDs to work more aggressively to address the rise.“It is regrettable to mention this, but I am convinced that our residents in our communities, in fact a significant percentage of our general population is not fully cognizant of the threat to life that non-communicable diseases embody. Their behaviour and lifestyles seem to indicate, despite the startling data, that they have not fully grasped the risks and the extent to which they are exposed with respect to NCDs,” she noted.“The intervention of the religious institutions, I am convinced, can help us to reach our targeted vulnerable citizens, our youths, and bridge the information gaps helping us to impact on the life span of our nation and to shape a healthy and productive population that will provide the cornerstone for the fulfillment of the Millennium and the Sustainable Development Goals,” Lawrence added.Additionally, Junior Public Health Minister, Dr Karen Cummings noted that NCDs significantly affect large sections of society and presents a huge cost and burden on the health care system.“A key element in the fight against NCDs is the establishment of health literacy within the population through robust health promotion. Persons need to know what they can do to control and possibly prevent the emergence and prevalence of NCDs through simple lifestyle changes,” she noted.She added that the training of health advocates is opportune as “it will most certainly equip them with the necessary knowledge and skills they need so that they can go into their respective communities and commence meaningful promotions as it relates to NCDs.”The minister also urged the health advocates to ensure that they use their training for the betterment of their communities and understand the roles they now play.