Articles: Marshall Islands Gets Healthy Assistance
conduct field research on Enewetak Atoll, July 9-August 15
ILLNESS: Expanding on work conducted during the summer of 2008 with Marshall Islanders now living in Hawai i, research in the summer of 2009 will allow me to travel to Majuro and Enewetak, Marshall Islands to work with Ujelang/Enewetak Marshallese resident in those locales. This field research endeavor will help situate the way in which local theories of disease and local strategies to deal with sedentary illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension are sensitive to the specific lived conditions in various residential communities, to differential environmental constraints, and to the divergent effects of globalization. At the same time, this comparative research among groups of people who all share a common sense of identity as “Enewetak/Ujelang people”, an important sub-group of Marshall Islanders, will begin to highlight the perduring force of shared belief in shaping people’s active responses to illness. Research activities during June of 2009, from 7 to 10 days, will include an initial literature review of materials on Pacific approaches to illness and disease.
FLU SHOTS: Tripler Army Medical Center reached out again this year, over 5,000 miles of the Pacific Ocean, to Guam and other small Pacific islands, to donate 17,500 surplus doses of seasonal influenza vaccine that would otherwise have been discarded.
This week, Tripler partnered with Hawaiian Airlines and Continental Micronesia Airlines to fly the surplus vaccine to American Samoa, Guam, Federated States of Micronesia, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Marshall Islands.
“The countries receiving them are more than happy to get the vaccine, free of charge,” Cpt. Daniel O’Neil, Tripler logistics medical officer, said. “The program fosters good relations with these countries and gives us an outlet to use these vaccines instead of just discarding them. It benefits not only us but the countries receiving them.”
OBESITY: With nearly one-fourth of Hawaii's starting kindergartners overweight and obese, the state has launched a project to encourage healthy family eating habits. Overweight children and adolescents are at increased risk for many health conditions as they grow older, including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and shorter life expectancies, the Health Department said. The project is starting at Kapiolani Medical Center with doctors trained in sharing the information with parents or caregivers of children. The handouts and posters also are also being translated in Marshallese and Chuukese.
MIRACLES: The work Canvasback does is made possible by donations from individuals and corporations which makes up the biggest part of their funding. The RMI Ministry of Health provides airfare and per diem for the medical teams. Canvasback provides specialized care, medical supplies and equipment. Jacque estimates that on this trip, $500,000 worth of services have been rendered. “The work we do goes a long way to reduce the patient backlog here as well as putting their health service personnel in a position to be successful,” Jacque said. Sometimes, little ‘miracles’ happen. Ebeye hospital had no echo cardiogram equipment and was unable to diagnose heart problems in patients at an early stage. For this trip, Canvasback had received the donation of a Philips ultrasound machine with color Doppler and Dr. Susan Price came along to train RMI personnel how to use it. The ultrasound was loaded with obstetrics and gynecology software, but the team, much to their delight and surprise, also found it had echo cardiogram software as well. “It’s extremely rare to have both cardiac and ob/gyn software on an ultrasound machine,” said Price. “It was exactly what we needed.”
DENTAL On the tiny Pacific island of Ebeye, more than 12,000 people are settled on just 80 acres. Residents face crowded living conditions, a shortage of clean water and an inadequate school system. Furthermore, local services can't meet residents' medical needs. The island's hospital lacks staff and equipment, and many people go untreated. Canvasback Missions is helping meet those needs. Tom Lengyel, co-owner of Bio-Medical Dental in South Salem, returned Feb. 7 from two weeks serving on Ebeye with the Christian medical nonprofit, formed in 1981 to bring health care to underserved Pacific islanders. This was Lengyel's fourth trip with the organization. "It's part of what makes me feel good," he said. Bio-Medical Dental provides medical supplies to physicians, clinics and dentists in Oregon and Washington, and Lengyel's expertise with medical equipment made him a valuable part of the team on the island
SKIN DISEASES: Of the Marshall Islands 62 inhabited islands, Ebeye is among the smallest — 80 acres — and the most crowded — 15,000 people living in tin-roofed huts and abandoned shipping containers. There is no indoor plumbing, no fresh water. Heat and humidity are high, medical resources limited and local physicians struggle daily to meet the needs of their patients.“It was quite an eye-opener,” said Angwin dermatologist Dr. Carol Isaacs, who recently spent two weeks on Ebeye with a Canvasback Missions volunteer medical team. Isaacs treated an array of infectious skin diseases, from scabies to fungal infections — “common diseases but made worse because they are untreated and because of crowded living conditions. Often 10 to 20 to 50 people live in one hut, and heat and humidity allows fungus to flourish.”
DIABETES: The Marshallese people are coming to the center to eat their meals – it’s the place to be – this includes members of the Marshallese Cabinet and Nitijela (Congress) who are coming to eat the healthy food. The dining room is packed! And would you believe it – our cooks are preparing meals for the President of the Marshall islands. Every day, he sends someone to pick up his meal. Just recently, we had an open house at the center. The staff served Marshallese soup and cornbread – and several of our participants brought healthy food they had prepared. Bob Sisters, a local Marshallese group who provided the evening’s entertainment, sang a song they had composed about how the cooks at the Wellness Center provide such great food. Marie Madison, also expressed her thanks on behalf of the all the participants. It was exciting to see how the participants who had come into the program with blood sugars in the 200-400 range, are now feeling good and doing well.