Health Corner 2 - What can we do about non-communicable diseases (NCDs)?

Have you heard about NCD? NCD stands for Non-Communicable Diseases, which means it is not caused by something infectious and is not-infectious.
In my perspective, NCDs are not only non-transmissible but are also preventable.
NCD is a group of diseases that because of their characteristics, are chronic with a slow progression and most of them can cause “sudden” deaths or affect the quality of life of the sick person.
Some of the diseases under the NCD umbrella are: Cancer, Cardiovascular disease, Diabetes, Chronic Lung Disease.
The concern surrounding NCDs is that these diseases are the leading causes of death and disease burden worldwide. It is estimated that more than 30 million of annual deaths are due to NCDs.
Micronesia and the Pacific Region are not exceptions. The data has placed the Region in “an NCD Crisis”. Forum leaders have recognized the situation as a ‘human, social and economic crisis requiring an urgent and comprehensive response’.
WHO surveys show that three out of every four deaths in the region are NCD related and the Pacific has some of the highest rates of these diseases and their causes in the world.
World Health Organization (WHO) performed a survey in Pohnpei. The 2008 report showed some information on the risk factors related to NCDs.
According to the WHO, a risk factor is any attribute, characteristic or exposure of an individual that increases the likelihood of developing a disease or injury. Some risks factors can be modifiable, like habits or exposures. Other risk factors like age or gender cannot be modified.
Risks factors for NCDs are all those habits that increase the chances to develop Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular (Heart) and Lung Disease. Some of them are: high blood pressure, tobacco and alcohol consumption, betel nut chewing, low or lack of physical activity, being overweight or obese, non healthy eating (the survey used number of servings of vegetables and fruits).
Some of the important results of the 2008 WHO survey in Pohnpei are:
25% of the population smoked tobacco daily,
26.9% of population chewed betel nuts daily,
35.1% of men drank an average of 5 or more standard drinks per day in the past week,
68.9% of the population consumed sake (kava),
81.8% of the population consumed less than five combined servings of fruit and vegetables per day,
64.3% of the population had a low level of physical activity,
73.1% of the population was overweight, 42.6% were obese,
32.1% of the population was diabetic.

What do these numbers mean? In terms of lifestyle, we can improve in order to prevent deaths in our families.
If we go back to the concept of the lost balance that causes the illness and we apply it to NCDs, keeping in mind that there are known risks factors for this group of diseases, the crisis can be managed by stopping the risk factors We start new protection factors or healthy habits.
One in every three people in Pohnpei is Diabetic. Diabetes is one of the NCDs that is affecting the quality of life of our families and friends.
Every day we can choose to have healthy habits. Every meal can be feeding NCDs or fighting them. We all can start changing these figures and make Micronesia not only a paradise to live in but also a healthy country.
Mabel Loján, MD
Integrative Medicine

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Health Corner 1

SEP 30, 2017

Welcome to the Health Corner.
As a visitor in Pohnpei I have had the opportunity to learn some things about Micronesian identity and history. As a Doctor, I think it is essential to have those facets in mind when doing health services.
I am an Integrative Medicine (IM) practitioner and would like to share with you some thoughts and information. I hope that you’ll find it useful.
Integrative Medicine is based on looking at person as a whole, influenced by physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental factors.
When I think of health, I think of identity. Understanding who I am, where I come from, and the story of each; identifying us each by name, a nationality, and purpose in life. Knowing who I am, accepting who I am not, being aware of my potential, and having a meaningful life are all elements of good health.
Integrative Medicine unites western and traditional medicine and other practices as complementary parts of a unique strategy for each individual. The human being is permanently nourishing his body and senses, so IM considers nutrition essential. Diseases can be the result of an imbalanced nutrition on three cases: having excess, deficit or having a poor quality of nutrients. Nutrients can be food or sensorial stimuli: sound, sight, touch, smell, taste.
If we consider sickness as an imbalance or loss of identity; the cure is to restore the balance by gaining wholeness, self-sufficiency and freewill.
In the healthcare system there are many people involved, however you are the only person responsible for your health. The process of healing starts with the awareness of being sick and the understanding of what the illness is and where it really comes from.
Diseases can be an opportunity not only to restore a lost function in your body, to heal a sick cell, or to prevent further damage. Sometimes it can change your entire family’s behavior. For example, a family who deals with a father who is diagnosed with mouth cancer is forever changed. If it is an early diagnosis and everything goes well, the sick father may have the malignant tumor removed, he could stop the habit that caused the cancer (beetle nut chewing, for example) and the family might start practicing healthy life habits; local and diverse food, food free of preservatives and right portions, regular workouts, and the elimination of risk factors (beetle nut, alcohol, tobacco). This cancer has impacted a whole family to become healthier.
How are we connected to any sick person in FSM, or in another country? Humanity is all connected. The same way our heart cells are connected to the liver cells. Micronesians, Americans, Ecuadorians, and all nationalities are connected beings on Planet Earth.
Our Planet is sick. The most recent symptoms of our sickness on Planet Earth are the hurricanes affecting Central and North America. What are the symptoms in FSM? Fishermen and divers are experiencing the changes to our ocean.
How is the health of human beings related to this? Health is about wholeness, communion, harmony, cleanliness and balance not only inside our bodies, but also our personal relationships, our spiritual life and our interaction with nature and life in general.
A healthy cell can function properly. A healthy organ will function better. A healthy body can maintain basic functions, and the energy to be happy. A happy person is able to contribute to a better planet.
Next time I’ll write about Non Communicable Diseases (NCD).
Mabel Loján, MD
Integrative Medicine

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Letter to the Editor: Advance preparation vital when faced with natural disasters

For the past few weeks, television and internet news channels have been literally awash in images of the aftermath of deadly hurricane Harvey and its path of destruction throughout the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast. Although we are two years removed from Typhoon Maysak, rebuilding work still continues in the Outer Islands of Chuuk and Yap States to recover from its savage fury. These recent events underscore the need for advance preparedness well before the next storm strikes your island. The best preparation involves planning long before the next dangerous threat arises.
The first step involves getting supplies long before a storm and having them readily available when needed. Most people wait until the day before to buy supplies, and by then stores will usually quickly run out of the most important necessities. Take the time to buy needed supplies before the first typhoon watch issues. This simple step will save you much time, stress, and money in the future. Essential supplies include non-refrigerated and non-frozen food, bottled water, water containers, candles, matches, a kerosene stove, kerosene, a first aid kit, flashlights, batteries, and a backup generator, fuel. You should also invest in a DC-only powered telephone; a cell phone will not be of much use once its battery runs out and there is no way to charge it again. These items will help you tremendously and make like much more comfortable if your house loses power for an extended period of time.
While staying inside your home is usually recommended during most tropical storms, in the event of a powerful typhoon, this may not be your best or safest option. Many internet websites emphasize the importance of evacuation plans and routes to reach safe havens. It will prove critical to have this information on-hand well in advance, in case existing conditions require immediate action. Think now of where you will go if you have to relocate your family as the storm approaches. Know where your nearest “go to” shelter is in case you need to leave in a hurry to reach it. Print out an evacuation plan and an exit route and have them posted or kept handy at home. Remember, you may not be at your house or you may even be off-island when it happens. Also, the weather, limited bandwidth, or heavy online usage may significantly impair your ability to connect to the internet.
Finally, it is important to prepare and protect your personal property now before a storm strikes. Make copies of important documents and store them in a safe place. Back up your electronic data in at least two formats. Carefully examine the outside exterior of your home, looking for any existing damage. Strong winds and storm surge will increase the scope and extent of any pre-existing problems, resulting in major structural damage. Make sure all gates and doors are kept securely locked, to reduce the chances of strong winds ripping them from their hinges. Most importantly, talk now with your other family members and friends to ensure they and their homes are also prepared.
The FSM OEED, your State Disaster Coordinator’s Office, and the Micronesia Red Cross all have additional information and handouts on emergency and disaster preparedness which they will gladly share with you. Find their local office on your island and contact them now.
Each and every year carries the potential for severe storms due to our location in the Typhoon Belt of the Western Pacific. While we can never predict the next typhoon, getting ready in advance will help keep you and your loved ones ASAP (as safe as possible).
Plan now; act now. Later you will be very glad that you did.
Gary Bloom, Area Director,
Area III (FSM)
Office United States Department of Agriculture
Rural Development

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