Time to make a change in the Marshall Islands

In the Western Pacific halfway between Papua New Guinea and Hawaii, the Marshall Islanders live the dire consequences of replacing fish and local food with processed foods. A national diabetes prevalence of 35% speaks its own language.

23 January 2014 Gwendolyn Carleton

“We need to teach the children how to make healthy choices. They will teach their families and that's the key to reversing the epidemic of diabetes,” says Jacque Spence, Canvasback Co-Founder.

75% of people over the age of 50 have diabetes in Majuro, Marshall Islands. In the Majuro Hospital the most common procedure is amputation. It is time to make a change to reverse the trend of diabetes in the island nation.

A short film produced by WDF’s project partner in the Marshall Islands, Canvasback Missions draws the lines of the situation and showcases the efforts being made to reverse the trend.

Watch video: Diabetes in the Micronesian Islands

The World Diabetes Foundation is supporting the Canvasback Mission in a three year project to improve general health and address diabetes prevention through health promotion and healthy living.

Normalised blood sugar levels

At the Majuro Hospital a 6,000 m2 wellness centre has been established to play a key role in reversing the diabetes epidemic in the Marshall Islands. “We see blood sugars of 400 normalised with just diet and exercise,” says Jamie Spence, Co-Founder of Canvasback. In the wellness centre the students learn about the quality of food and the importance of exercise. “Without exercise and good food we will never be able to prevent diabetes,” says Rosabella Marty, Majuro Hospital Administrator.

Three key elements are being addressed to reverse the diabetes epidemic in the Marshall Islands:

1) Lifestyle interventions including exercise and diet as are being addressed in the wellness centre
2) Family gardening where families learn how to grow their own food.
3) Education addressing the curriculum in the schools and extending cooking classes to civil organisations.

If not us then who?

Niten Anni who has lost two family members to diabetes now works as a fitness coordinator in the wellness centre. He says, “I want to reach out to those struggling with diabetes. I also want to reach the younger generation. I want to tell them that we have to start to make a change. Because if not now, then when? And if not us, then who? This is our time: the time to make a change is starting now.”

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