The South Pacific islands have some of the highest rates of type 2 diabetes in the world. These islanders have very little access to healthcare and modern medications. Most of these indigenous people are subsistence farmers and fishermen. In recent years, tropical cyclones have wiped out much of the soil, so they can no longer grow healthy crops. In order to help them subsist, the government of Fiji provides imported, processed, high carbohydrate foods, which has contributed to an epidemic of obesity and diabetes. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in at least 10 of the Pacific Islands, more than 50% (and in some, up to 90%) of the population is overweight.
This month, I will lead a medical relief team to the island of Batiki, a small atoll off the coast of Fiji. The island is 12 square kilometers and home to 200 native Fijians. There is no running water or electricity on the island, and the only medical care these people receive comes via a nurse stationed on the island a few days a week. Dr. Suzy Feigofsky, an electrophysiologist with Iowa Heart Center, will be traveling with me to the island to assist in the medical evaluation of all 200 inhabitants. We will be living on the island for two weeks in the homes of the villagers.
We will be working with a charity called Sea Mercy (www.SeaMercy.org) to screen natives for diabetes and hypertension, as well as treat common diseases and injuries. Thanks to the generosity of Dr. David Albert and AliveCor, who have donated multiple AliveCor devices, we will be screening all natives for atrial fibrillation (AF). Given the known association between AF and diabetes, it will be interesting to examine the rates of asymptomatic AF in an isolated population.
Interested in learning more? In the fall, Drs. Campbell and Feigofsky will be
sharing their experiences with EP Lab Digest!