Church and Government collaborate to save lives in the Solomons

Toes removed due to diabetes. (Photo: 10,000 Toes campaign)

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A first-of-its-kind collaboration between the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the Solomon Islands Government will see local churches become “wellness hubs”.

South Pacific Division health director Dr Chester Kuma and Solomon Islands Mission health director Dr George Manimu met with senior government health officials recently to look at ways to tackle the country’s lifestyle disease epidemic.

“We have never had this sort of opportunity to speak to the Government in the past,” Dr Kuma said.

“They shared with us some very depressing statistics, including that 15 per cent of the population is now diabetic, and every day there are 3 or 4 patients with heart attack symptoms presenting at hospital emergency departments.”

From left to right, Dr George Manimu, health director, Solomon Islands Mission, Geoffrey Alacky, Non Communicable Disease Task Force, Ministry of Health, Dr Tenneth Dalipada, permanent secretary, Ministry of Health, and Dr Geoffrey Kenilorea, director, Non Communicable Disease, Ministry of Health.

Dr Kuma shared details of the 10,000 Toes campaign—a joint initiative of the SPD Health Department and the Adventist Development and Relief Agency—which aims to help stamp out diabetes in the South Pacific.

As part of this campaign local churches are set to become wellness hubs, equipped with health assessment tools and the appropriate skills to do community health assessments for early detection of diabetes and other related chronic diseases.

It would also involve the training and resourcing of lifestyle coaches with the skills to run programs like the Complete Health Improvement Program (CHIP) to help tackle the diabetes problem.

The Government embraced the concept and is providing funding for a pilot program at an Adventist church in Honiara and two churches of other denominations.

“The Adventist Church will be the main facilitator; we will be the church doing the training for the other churches because of our health message,” Dr Kuma said.

“It’s going to start in Honiara and then it’s going to spread out; eventually all other churches will be involved.

“It’s a great entering wedge—as we address lifestyle disease at the same time there is a great opportunity for the gospel to go in and touch people’s lives.”

The Government also committed to a plan to get all doctors in the Solomons to undergo CHIP training, similar to the Fiji Medical Association’s commitment to make CHIP available to every doctor in Fiji.

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