PAHO conducts an NCD data analysis workshop with Aruba health authorities to improve health policies using the STEPS survey results

Aruba workshop

Washington D.C., 19 April 2024. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) received public health officers, policy advisors, and epidemiologists from the Ministry of Tourism and Public Health and from the Department of Public Health of Aruba to participate in a data analysis meeting to examine the results, and implications, of the STEPS survey conducted in the country in 2023.

Aruba implemented the STEPS household NCD survey between March and July of 2023. It covered areas such as tobacco use, alcohol consumption, diet, physical activity, hypertension, diabetes, cholesterol, lifestyle counseling, cancer screening, and mental health. The results illustrate the high burden of these diseases and their common risk factors, which jeopardize the health systems' ability to manage and implement customized policies and interventions adequately. Aruba health authorities will officially launch the results of the STEPS survey in a public event on May 17th.

The 3-day workshop sought to interpret the survey results, and discuss strategies to help health services plan priorities and monitor and evaluate population-wide interventions while strengthening national capacity to conduct surveillance. This workshop included experts on all NCDs and risk factors areas within the organization, such as tobacco control, harmful use of alcohol, nutrition, physical activity, and primary health care.

Among the main areas for further action identified during the workshop, the national team highlighted overweight and obesity, alcohol consumption, and disease management, especially hypertension, diabetes, and cancer screening. To evaluate possible lines of action, participants learned and considered implementing  PAHO's new initiative, Better Care for NCD, an integrated approach to improve NCD management in primary health care. Better Care for NCDs is PAHO's flagship initiative, which nurtures and brings together the different initiatives that many countries already implement, such as HEARTS for cardiovascular disease, MPOWER for tobacco, SHAKE and REPLACE for nutrition, the Global Diabetes Compact, and the strategies for cervical, and breast cancer.

Acting at the first level of care and utilizing standardized diagnosis and treatment protocols in the early stages will help improve diagnosis, treatment, and continuous follow-up care to prevent early mortality and tackle the country's expressed main concerns. Better Care for NCDs strongly emphasizes identifying population needs to improve primary care for NCDs, engaging with communities, increasing primary care providers capacity and access to essential NCD medicines and technologies, and strengthening facility-based data collection and monitoring of NCD diagnosis, treatment, and outcomes. The 2023 Aruba STEPS survey is a great accomplishment in understanding the population’s health status regarding NCDs and their risk factors.

How does the STEPS survey work

The STEPwise approach to NCD risk factor surveillance (STEPS) is a simple, sequential, standardized method for collecting, analyzing, and disseminating data on key NCD risk factors in countries. STEPS  is a household survey that gathers information through a face-to-face interview (step 1), physical measurements of blood pressure, height, and weight (step 2), and collection of urine and blood samples for biochemical analysis of glucose and cholesterol (step 3). Implementing STEPS allows the comparability of data within and between countries due to its standardized data collection.