In an effort to help combat an overwhelming epidemic of adult onset diabetes and massive leg and foot amputations in the isolated Pacific island nation of Kiribati, volunteer Pacific Islands Medical Aid endocrinologist Dr. Elizabeth Beale, MD has organized a team to study and treat the affliction on Christmas Island later this month.
Studies show that more than 30 percent of adults in Kiribati are suffering with type 2 diabetes, she said, one of the highest rates in the world.
“Dr. Beale and her team plan to travel to Kiritimati (Christmas Island) March 15-22 at the invitation of the Kiribati Ministry of Health with two overall goals in mind,” said Carlton Smith, president of Pacific Islands Medical Aid, Inc.
The first aim of the visit is to establish a basic, sustainable diabetes treatment and foot care program. Secondly, they plan to collect preliminary data on the prevalence of obesity and pre-diabetes in children in an effort to design a more specific and tailored intervention for prevention.
“Dr. Beale has put a great team together and we are thrilled that she will be able to return to Kiritimati… her third trip as a PIMA volunteer to this isolated central Pacific region,” Carlton said.
One goal on this trip, Dr. Beale said, is to decrease serious foot complications, such as foot ulcers, that can lead to amputation.
“There will be a mini educational symposium on foot care at the beginning of the week,” she said. “Thereafter, each day a village clinic will be visited and the village staff will be shown how to screen patients for foot problems and how to educate their patients.”
“Each clinic will be provided a foot care tool kit including educational materials,” she said. “At the end of the week there will be a review session to define needs and to make plans to sustain and improve the program.”
While this is going on, the second data collection program will be underway, including the collection of data from 400 children of all ages on the island, including A1C samples and saliva samples to extract DNA to obtain ‘pilot data’ on the association between obesity and existing obesity-related genes.
The results of all research will be shared with the Kiribati Ministry of Health, Carlton said.
Dr. Elizabeth Beale MD is clinical director of the Roybal Diabetes Management Program and assistant professor in the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California.
Joining Dr. Beale in foot care will be Dr. Julie Chatigny, DPM, chief executive officer and president of Central Coast Foot and Ankle Specialists, Templeton, California, and member of the humanitarian organization FootAid.
Leading data collection will be Dr. Michael Goran, professor of Preventative Medicine, Physiology, Biophysics and Pediatrics, co-director of the University of Southern California Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute and director of the Child Obesity Research Center. He will be joined by Ms. Skylar Steinberg, University of Southern California student assistant.
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