Public Health takes to dispensaries for NCD workshops featuring cooking demonstration as part of COVID-19 awareness campaign

By Department of Health Services

And Alvie B. Cabañez


hhggPohnpei—In April of 2020, as part of the COVID-19 preparedness efforts, the Pohnpei Division of Primary Health Services decided to decentralize some of its services by providing more services at the local dispensaries situated around the island.  The effort has reinforced the efforts of frontline medical personnel to provide a better health care environment to the community.

Organizers at the Non-Communicable Disease Program decided also to add to those services by providing a series of workshops both to reinforce the ongoing COVID-19 campaign and to provide education and awareness of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).  NCDs include cardiovascular (heart) diseases, diabetes, hypertension, cancer, gout, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), major killers of Pohnpei residents.

Part of the NCD Programs initiative was to reinforce the more than 20-year-old Micronesia One Diet Fits All Today (MODFAT) nutritional guidelines.  Though the MODFAT guidelines have been in existence for a long time, they are not always observed in daily habits.  The MODFAT guidelines were created as a way to categorize and educate on the benefits of a healthy diet that adjusts to local product availability.

Research has shown that individuals with pre-existing conditions such as NCDs could develop severe or even fatal outcomes from COVID-19.  Knowing that, the NCD Program personnel initiated a pilot project of a series of educational workshops for patients who visit the dispensaries.

Organizers planned and presented two types of workshops. One is a lecture on SARS-CO-V-2 and COVID-19 with an aim of raising the awareness of patients from far-flung areas on the virus with particular

emphasis on how to avoid it.  The second is a cooking demonstration that focuses on having a strong immune system and interactive eating habits to fight COVID-19.  The cooking demonstration was facilitated by Dr. Mabel Loján, an Integrative Medicine practitioner and a Public Health volunteer.

The first set of workshops was conducted by a team of three volunteers who joined the NCD team on December 9, 2020, at the Pohnlangas Dispensary.  Two more were held on December 10 and 11 at the Sokehs Dispensary. While waiting their turn to be seen by medical practitioners at the dispensary, patients enthusiastically participated. The workshops included an audio-visual presentation demonstrating proper hand washing and talking about the importance of frequent use of hand sanitizers.  Patients also received printed handout materials to reinforce those hygiene practices in their homes.

Most considered the cooking demonstration to be the highlight of the workshops.  Dr. Loján approaches everything she does with a high level of enthusiasm and particularly when she is talking about nutrition, which is one of her passions.  That enthusiasm and the demonstration were contagious in the best possible way as she lectured on the principals of sustainability and health in order to build a healthy and strong immune system, a metabolic balance to maintain health before and during COVID-19 times, and with or without an NCD.  While lecturing, she demonstrated methods of preparing meals from local food products such as vegetables, fish, or meat.  Her demonstration emphasized the importance and benefits of protein like fish; health fats such as are found in coconut oil and milk; and the importance of reducing carbohydrates despite their energetic properties.  She said that people tend to overeat carbohydrates if proteins and healthy fats are insufficient in diets.

She also encouraged patients to use flavors and spices like ginger, garlic, citrus like lemon or lime, squash, and banana to name a few. Those flavors have anti-inflammatory and anti-aging properties that help reduce pain or even aging effects in the cardiovascular system.  They are also sources of vitamins and minerals that play a role in helping the metabolism to work efficiently and to have healthy body functions.

Many residents enjoyed the presentation so much that they expressed a motivation to begin to grow their own vegetable gardens in the backyards.

The December presentations were not the last of the workshops to be presented.  Going forward, the workshops will continue twice each month, rotating among the various dispensaries in Pohnpei, including Wone, Kitti. The team urges residents to join the activities planned during the second and third week of each month.

In January the emphasis will be on COVID-19 prevention in order to address any questions related to the disease or the vaccine.  In February the emphasis will be on cancer, promotion of prevention, and healthy foods.

The teams invite the public to join them and be screened for NCDs.  The team goes to Community Health Clinic (CHC) at Kolonia dispensary on Mondays, Wone dispensary on Tuesdays at Kitti, Pohnlangas dispensary on Wednesday and Lukop on Thursday at Madolenihmw and to Sokehs dispensary on Fridays.

Your health, your responsibility! Partner with the Health Department to get the information, resources and support you need to get healthier during 2021 and enjoy a quality of life.

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