Joslin Brings Diabetes Expertise to Kuwait

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Kuwait, a small, oil-rich desert nation, has the dubious distinction of placing third in the world for diabetes incidence.

In a 2010 visit to the Gulf region, US Science Envoy Dr. Elias Zerhoun said that the most likely science and technology cooperation  between Kuwait and the US would be in the realm of health and chronic disease, particularly diabetes.

“We have the same problems, we have the same needs, and I think we have expertise on both sides that can be truly leveraged. So I am very keen on continuing this conversation about joint approach for the problem of diabetes and its consequences.”

Earlier this February, a team from the Joslin Diabetes Center—including physicians Antoine Kaldany, M.D., and Nuha El Said, M.D., Vice President of Advocacy & Planning Cathy Carver M.S., A.N.P., C.D.E., and educators Pamela Needle, R.N., C.D.E., Michael See, M.S., R.C.E.P., C.E.S., C.D.E., and Nora Saul, M.S., R.D., C.D.E.—travelled to Kuwait’s Dasman Diabetes Institute to help lead three full days of diabetes-care training.

Working with the staff at Dasman, the team integrated lectures with hands on workshops. The intensive course covered topics such as insulin administration, the role of exercise, principles of nutrition and motivational strategies to help patients adopt and maintain healthy lifestyles.

Approximately 115 nurses, nutritionists, pharmacists and physicians, many under the auspices of the Ministry of Health’s primary care locations, attended the seminar. They arrived at Dasman from hospitals, public health centers, and primary care offices in the surrounding areas to learn about the pathophysiology, complications and treatments available for the chronic condition.

Participants were queried at the beginning and end of the program about their perceived comfort level with various aspects of diabetes care to gauge the efficacy of the programs. They were also quizzed on what they learned during the program to assess if the classes they took improved their familiarly with diabetes treatment parameters. Participants who completed the full program received a certificate from Joslin.

Headed by Director General, Dr. Kazem Behbehani, the Dasman Diabetes Institute is a state- of- the- art facility whose mission “is to prevent, control and mitigate the impact of diabetes and related conditions in Kuwait, through effective programs of research, training, education, and health promotion and thereby improve quality of life in the population.”

Untreated diabetes can be a devastating disease with severe complications. Already, “Kuwaitis are starting to show chronic complications in people as young as 20-30 years of age. Left untamed, this epidemic may jeopardize the future of the entire society in Kuwait” commented Faten Sukkar, Director of Education and Training at Dasman.

Kuwait ranks 13th in world per capita income according to the World Bank. Vast oil reserves have enabled the government to provide Kuwaitis with free medical care and education. But along with this, Kuwaitis have developed a taste for the menu options of the many American fast food establishments that dot the capital city.

In addition, the extreme heat of the summer months and the shift to a more industrial and information based economy has discouraged regular physical activity.

Roula Barake, head of nutrition services at Dasman, said that food plays a central role in the social life of Kuwaiti families. Kuwaitis use food to show hospitality. Having guests is common, and to refuse an offer of food is considered insulting.

Dasman and Joslin have been working together for the past several months to make this training session a reality. Joslin team is planning a return trip to Kuwait in the coming months to offer a more advanced course that will build on the basics covered this February.

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