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Posted By Lynn Bemiller, M.D. on August 8, 2013

Labels: Disaster and Health Crisis Missions , Global Health Expertise, Volunteers

Lynn Bemiller, M.D., is a hematologist-oncologist from San Diego, who is serving as the HOPE Medical Director on Pacific Partnership 2013, a humanitarian mission to several island nations in the South Pacific.  PP13 is Dr. Bemiller’s sixth volunteer mission with Project HOPE.

In 2010, 73% of all deaths in the Marshall Islands were due to non-communicable diseases.  The World Health Organization estimates that 79% of Marshallese adults are overweight, 33% have high blood pressure, 52% are physically inactive and 27% have elevated blood glucose.  These statistics illustrate why this year’s Pacific Partnership activities have specifically targeted health promotion and chronic disease care and prevention.

During a recent three-day visit to RMIs most populous island, Ebeye, Project HOPE volunteer nurses Amy Rejent, Danielle Walker, Rose Wilson, Dan Dlugose, and social worker Suzanne Hansen joined US military personnel and representatives from the United States Center for Disease Control to help raise health awareness among the island’s residents.

While participants waited to enter the screening area, they listened to a series of health discussions led by PP ‘13 participants.  Suzanne discussed the importance of physical activity in a healthy lifestyle.  I discussed the high rate of HPV-related cervical cancer in Oceania, and what to do for screening and prevention.  Other speakers discussed various aspects of diabetes care.

When participants entered the fair, they were greeted first by Amy and Danielle , who taught their Marshallese participants that proper hand-washing can help alleviate the spread of illness, and dispensed waterless hand sanitizer.

Nutritionists and a volunteer chef taught the importance of healthy eating, and discussed how readily available local foods can be used as a basis for nutritious meals.

Across the room, Dan Dlugose calculated participants’ Body Mass Index, and discussed how each person’s diabetes risk might be affected by her BMI.  In adjacent booths, nurses performed finger-stick blood glucose and hemoglobin A1C measurements to detect possible diabetes.

CDC scientists and clinicians inspected participants’ skin for evidence of leprosy, and referred those with suspicious lesions to the appropriate care programs.  Others performed Mantoux tests to detect tuberculosis.

We are grateful to have had this opportunity to touch the lives of our friends in the Marshall Islands.

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