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Diabetes now reaches crisis point

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Photo of workshop participants during group discussion.
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The current situation of diabetes in Solomon Islands has now reached a “state of crisis”, it has been revealed today.

National Referral Hospital (NRH), Head of Surgery, Dr Rooney Jagilly said, “the situation for diabetes in Solomon Islands is in a state of crisis.

He added that more than 60% of inpatients in the surgical ward have severe diabetic foot wounds and amputations.

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Dr Jagiliy said: “It’s common for complications of diabetic foot wounds to lead to sepsis and death”.

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He revealed the data following the successful ending of a two-day National Diabetic Foot Disease 5-Year Strategic Plan workshop in Honiara today hosted by the Ministry of health in partnership with Interplast Australia & New Zealand

Diabetic Foot Disease is a complication of diabetes that is causing a major impact on the lives and stories of many Solomon Island individuals, families, and communities. For many reasons, a large number of people in the Solomon Islands with (often uncontrolled) diabetes, are developing foot wounds and seeking medical assistance late, by which time their wounds are large, infected or necrotic. This often leads to acute hospital admission, surgical debridement, amputation, or death.

Opening the workshop, Deputy Secretary Health Improvement (DSHI), Dr. Nemia Bainivalu, said “this workshop signifies a pivotal moment in our ongoing battle against this NCD health crisis. Today, we embark on a journey towards a brighter, healthier future for the people of the Solomon Islands.”

“As we gather here today, let us remember the stories behind the statistics—the individuals and families affected by diabetic foot disease in our communities. Let their experiences fuel our determination to outline the way forward to make a real difference”, said Dr. Bainivalu.

“I am excited to see such a broad representation of people coming together today. Collaboration is key to this complex, multi-dimensional, and multi-generational issue. Let us work together as a team to overcome the challenges we are facing. Together, this is our opportunity to create a brighter, healthier future for all”, said Dr. Bainivalu.

Meanwhile, National Referral Hospital (NRH), Head of Surgery, Dr Rooney Jagilly said, “the situation for diabetes in Solomon Islands is in a state of crisis. More than 60% of inpatients in the surgical ward have severe diabetic foot wounds and amputations. It’s common for complications of diabetic foot wounds to lead to sepsis and death”.

During the workshop Dr Scott Siota, from the NRH surgical ward quoted an article published in the Lancet Journal earlier this year.

“Diabetes will be a defining disease of this century. How the health communities deals with diabetes in the next two decades will shape population health and life expectancy for the next 80% years. The world has failed to understand the social nature of diabetes and underestimate the true scale and threat the disease poses.”- Lancet 2023

Dr Scott referred to the situation as a “sweet and silent landmine in the Hapi Isles”. The Solomon Islands has the 9th highest prevalence of diabetes in the world. Dr Scott noted “walking through the surgical ward you would assume there have been mass injuries of people walking through a minefield. When really, diabetes is the culprit causing so many amputations”.

However, health workers celebrated the fact that there is still great hope in the war against diabetes and the NCD crisis. Referring to the International Diabetes Federation who in 2019 stated with comprehensive management of diabetic foot wounds, prevention activities and education by multi-disciplinary teams, amputations could be reduced by up to 85%”. Similarly, the World Health Organization in 2019 reported a 40-60% decrease in amputation rates during the last 10-15 years seen in countries with strong diabetic foot management services.

Therefore, participants shared enthusiasm for the need to strengthen investment and collaboration to prevent and manage complications to overcome diabetes and diabetic foot disease. Highlighting it as one of the countries priority health areas, requiring collaboration for across sectors and within communities.

Following the workshop, a 5-year diabetic foot disease strategic plan will be developed which will outline the way forward for diabetic foot disease within the Ministry of Health’s Non-Communicable Disease Multisectoral Work Plan. The workshop participants included representatives from the MHMS, NCD provincial coordinators, church leaders, service users, community leaders and the Solomon Islands National University.

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