Johns Hopkins Medicine and Trinidad and Tobago Celebrate Five-Year Diabetes Initiative
Members of the Trinidad and Tobago Health Science Initiative’s Diabetes Outreach Program joined the country’s Minister of Health Fuad Khan Tuesday in Port of Spain to celebrate the program’s achievements in fighting diabetes in Trinidad and Tobago.
Since 2008, Johns Hopkins Medicine International has partnered with health leadership in Trinidad and Tobago to address the nation’s severe problems with diabetes.
Among the highlights of the program was an intensive two-year study of patients with diabetes and the personal, social, economic and health system challenges they face. The study found that conditions such as depression, physical inactivity and smoking are major barriers to self-care among the country’s residents with the disease.
The outreach program also launched an effort to provide diabetic retinopathy screening in the nation’s South-West Regional Health Authority. Diabetic retinopathy is a dangerous complication of diabetes that can lead to blindness. The screening program detects retinopathy in people with diabetes before the condition leads to blindness.
During the outreach program’s five-year partnership with Johns Hopkins Medicine International, 16 students trained and graduated as certified diabetes educators in the public sector, the most of any Caribbean nation. These educators will continue the fight against diabetes and lead prevention efforts in all five of the country’s regional health authorities.
The outreach program was a key driver in training health care providers at all levels — doctors, nurses and other health care professionals — to detect and treat diabetes. Part of the required continuing medical education curriculum in Trinidad and Tobago now includes courses on diabetes.
Among the important results of Johns Hopkins Medicine International’s work with the country’s health leadership were the successful standardization of testing and the universal adoption of the HbA1c test. A hemoglobin test that measures plasma glucose concentration, the HbA1c test is recognized around the world as the standard for diabetes testing.
The outreach program also helped found the Academy of Diabetes Clinicians of Trinidad and Tobago, an association aimed at standardizing the professional approach and guidelines to care for patients with diabetes.
Paul Ladenson, M.D., director of Johns Hopkins Medicine’s Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism and the John Eager Howard Professor of Endocrinology and Metabolism, hosted the ceremony and saluted Trinidad and Tobago’s health leaders for their cooperation and dedication to improving health by treating and preventing diabetes.
“This partnership does not end today,” Ladenson said. “Our work together will continue, but we are confident that Trinidad’s health leadership is moving in the right direction.”
In his address, Fuad Khan emphasized the prevention of diabetes as much as its treatment.
“Because diabetes has been with us for such a long time, we think it is normal to have these complications and a norm to have diabetes,” Khan said. “But thanks to Johns Hopkins moving the Diabetes Outreach Program to the forefront, we realize that this disorder can be treated. It can be managed and it can be prevented.”