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Jun 27, 2007

Diabetes initiative targets foot care

Story PictureIt’s a common ailment in Belize as well as across the Caribbean and throughout the world. Diabetes has long been acknowledged as one of our leading killers and its debilitating effects are often crippling. While campaigns to raise awareness are often implemented, one new initiative is seeking to focus on a particular target.

Anthony Castillo, President, B.D.A.
“Diabetes continues to be a major concern for us here in Belize. Statistics from the Ministry of Health is stating that approximately seventeen percent of our population is living with diabetes and that is a concern.”

Jacqueline Godwin, Reporting
The medical condition has resulted in frequent amputations at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital. K.H.M.H. Chief of Surgery Department, Dr. Jose Moguel says every month at least three patients lose a limb because of their diabetic status.

Dr. Jose Moguel, Chief, Surgery Surgery Department, K.H.M.H.
“It starts as simple as sore maybe a trauma. A diabetic person might bump his toe or an area of the limb and then it would get infected and from there on it progresses into a limb threatening condition.”

Four years ago seventy-three year old Jane Young lost her left leg after a cut on one of her toes did not heal and by the time she sought medical attention it was too late.

Jane Young, Amputee/Diabetic Patient
“Well, I tell you I was so upset I cried. Well, they were going to take off my foot, wouldn’t you cry?”

Diabetes has not only affected Young’s health but it has taken the lives of nine of her brothers and sisters. Today she resides at the Sister Cecilia Home for the Elderly where she gets around by wheelchair.

Anthony Castillo
“I think we are having much too much amputation in Belize.”

It’s a crippling situation that has caused the Ministry of Health to seriously embark on a new countrywide educational initiative to be implemented in September at all health centres and hospitals. The programme is designed and coordinated by U.S veteran podiatrist, Doctor Neil Donohue.

Dr. Neil Donohue, Veteran Podiatrist
“All we are doing is going to create a totally positive atmosphere for people with diabetes to take responsibility for their disease. I mean I still have people at home in the U.S. that come to me and they say oh my diabetes is my doctor’s problem. Well, it’s not your doctor’s problem.”

Donohue says the programme involves a participatory approach in getting not only families but whole communities to change their lifestyle. Donohue says he knows it will be a challenge but all parties have agreed to be a part of the process.

Dr. Neil Donohue
“We are trying to something very difficult. We’re trying to change people’s behaviour. We’re trying to change ways people have lived all their lives. If they are overweight we need to think about them wanting to have a healthier lifestyle.”

“We are not only educating patients with diabetes but we are going to be engaging their whole community around the, their families, their friends. Even at home, ways they can be reinforced at home to begin to live a healthier lifestyle. And getting into that health centre or clinic on a regular basis to have their diabetes looked after, to get their foot examination, to get proper shoes, proper insoles and proper ulcer care if they do get an ulcer. So it’s an integrated process; it’s one where all we are doing is going to create a totally positive atmosphere for people with diabetes to take responsibility.”

Young continues to battle with her illness. One year ago doctors had to remove part of her right big toe and only six months ago she started losing vision in both her eyes.

Jane Young
“It is a very serious disease because it affects so many parts of you.”

Young admits that at first she believes it was only her doctor’s responsibility to take care of her diabetes.

Dr. Neil Donohue
“We are going to completely turn that around in Belize and say “this is a disease I live with as a patient, I’m gonna improve my lifestyle. I want a healthy lifestyle and I’m gonna ask family and friends to help me do that”.”

Young says she will continue to fight to save her right leg but despite whatever other health complications she may experience she advises Belizeans to learn from her mistakes and start take responsibility for their own health.

Jane Young
“What I would like to tell them not to eat everything. Like me, I eat everything and it doesn’t do me any good.

“Like me, noh say “I’m not going to the doctor and I am not going to the doctor.” Go right now because I didn’t go right now and this is what I got, my foot off.”

This week Dr. Donohue has been meeting with health care givers and associations across the country familiarising them with the diabetes programme.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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