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Seeking To Tackle Diabetes

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Minister of Health Dr. Perry Gomez (left) delivered the keynote address for World Diabetes Day, 2012 at the College of the Bahamas' Grosvenor Close Campus. Pictured with Dr. Gomez are: Dr. Monique Mitchell, podiatrist, and Dr. Desmond Bell, CEO of Save A Leg, Save A Life. (Photo: Patrick Hanna/BIS)

THE new Bahamas chapter of ‘Save A Leg, Save A Life’ was described by Minister of Health Dr Perry Gomez, as “the right model for addressing diabetes in the Bahamas”.

The launch of the SALSAL chapter last Tuesday coincided with World Diabetes Day and a symposium entitled “Diabetic foot 101: Savings Legs, Saving Lives” was held.

Dr Gomez said: “I take this opportunity to welcome Dr Desmond Bell (CEO of the SALSAL Foundation) and thank him for introducing the Bahamas to this wonderful programme, which has as its mission statement the reduction of lower extremity amputations and which works to improve the quality of life for persons afflicted with wounds and complications of diabetes and peripheral arterial disease.

“I am certain that our Bahamas chapter will benefit from the wealth of knowledge and experience the foundation will bring to the programme, and the provision of education to our professionals, students and parents who will be the change agents we empower to reverse this deadly disease.”

The SALSAL Foundation began as the Wound Summit Outreach, Inc in October 2005 – a non-profit organisation created by Dr Desmond Bell and De Anna Bell. It is based in Jacksonville, Florida.

“Due to the frustrating amputation rates in the local area, the initial plan was simply to begin increasing the knowledge of home health nurses who were providing care to patients with chronic ulcers. Our first few programmes were brief ‘lunch-and-learns’ with only a handful of professionals in attendance,” Dr Bell said.

“Over time, we became aware of many issues that were having a direct negative impact on the healing rates of patients who had been referred to us. We became increasingly frustrated by the lack of evidence-based protocols being utilised by the practitioners in our community, likely contributing to the dismal statistics associated with lower extremity amputation and overall poor quality of life for those afflicted with chronic wounds.”

Dr Gomez said he is convinced that the “community chapter model” – in which professional caregivers and patients come together to learn about the availability of medical treatments and best practices for creating the awareness needed to stem the spread of the disease – is the “right model for addressing this epidemic.”

He said diabetes has become a national epidemic in the Bahamas, responsible for 29.2 deaths per 100,000 persons each year, making it the fifth-leading cause of death in all age groups.

According to statistics from the Princess Margaret Hospital for the period 2002-2006, there was an average of 100 lower extremity amputations per year, including 165 below the knee amputations in 2002 alone.

“These numbers represent a significant number of limbs lost and lives that are irrevocably lost,” Dr Gomez said.

He said diabetes is a “global health threat” and currently affects 366 million people around the world.

The minister said statistics show the number will increase to more than 550 million people by 2030 if immediate action is not taken to ensure timely diagnosis, treatment and public education.

SALSAL officials say their work began as a “grassroots campaign” to reduce amputation rates and improve limb salvage techniques by educating colleagues through a continuing education programme known as the Southeastern Interactive Wound Summit (SIWS).

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