Review – Nutrition & Public Health Program Fiji

| BULA! |

Have you wondered why I’ve been so quiet of late??? I have recently returned from an amazing experience volunteering in Fiji.

Having wanted to volunteer since my teens, I had the unique opportunity of combining my passion for helping others with my wealth of experience in nutritional medicine and diabetes education to assist in encouraging the local community to adopt healthier dietary and lifestyle choices.

30% of the Fijian population has diabetes – that’s one in three people – and the prediction is that 50% of the population will have a diagnosis of diabetes within the next few years. That’s disastrous.

Diabetes is a serious, chronic disease causing cardiovascular disease, neuropathies, nephropathies, retinopathy, circulatory disorders particularly affecting the foot and amputations and drastically increases mortality and reduces quality of life. Diabetes is also being linked to Alzheimer’s disease and other inflammatory conditions.

We are so fortunate to live in a country that provides access to healthcare and medication for all, however, this is not the case in Fiji (nor many other countries around the world).

So, this is where I come in. How did a Naturopath / Clinical Nutritionist contribute to health awareness and education in Fiji?

In a remote rural island school community, I:

• Taught primary school children about healthy eating, the importance of their food groups and how to combine these foods to make a balanced meal that would reduce their susceptibility to diabetes and other health problems
• Assessed nutritional deficiencies in the children
• Conducted one-on-one health and nutrition consultations with the teaching population
• Collated body composition data to assess susceptibility to diabetes
• General talks on health and nutrition to the teaching population
• Provided nutritional guidelines for the children and parents to ensure that healthy foods are incorporated, not just into each day, but into each meal
• Assessed the challenges of sourcing fresh fruit and vegetables for a remote island location
• Created the basics of a nutrition and diabetes awareness campaign that has the potential to become part of the school curriculum

On the mainland in an old people’s home, I:

• Was the first volunteer to attend at this particular facility – there were huge expectations on my findings as this will decide whether the facility becomes part of the ongoing volunteer program!
• Assessed the health status of all 43 residents
• Collated data from residents’ pathology reports to assist with determining nutritional status
• Assessed the specific nutritional status of all residents with regards to their particular dietary requirements and medications influence on absorption
• General talks on health and nutrition to the health and care workers
• Provided nutritional guidelines to ensure that healthy foods are incorporated, not just into each day, but into each meal
• Discussed in detail with the local doctor, nurse and kitchen staff the complexities of providing optimal nutrition in a facility that cares for patients with many different requirements and challenges
• Created the basics of a nutrition and diabetes awareness campaign that has the potential to become part of the health and dietary directives for the facility

The education of both young and old and the implementation and encouragement to make healthy dietary and lifestyle choices will hopefully help break the cycle of diabetes, obesity and chronic disease in Fiji.

It was a truly wonderful experience on so many different levels. Sometimes it was challenging and despairing but mostly it was hopeful and exciting and incredibly rewarding – on both sides. I can’t wait to go back!

Yours in good health
Carrun Squires
Naturopath & Clinical Nutritionist

M.Hum.Nut.; Grad.Cert.Diab.Edu.; B.H.Sc.(Nat)

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