Haitian diabetes experts bring experience, perspective to international conference

Author: Maia Olsen, NCD Synergies
December 3, 2015

Maia Olsen / Partners In Health
Dr. Nancy Charles Larco from Fondation Haïtienne de Diabète et de Maladies Cardo-Vasculaires (FHADIMAC) presents their efforts to ensure access to diabetes care to patients in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake at the World Diabetes Congress 2015 in Vancouver on Dec 2.

From November 30th to December 4th , experts from over 200 countries gathered in Vancouver, Canada to celebrate scientific advances in global diabetes control at the 2015 World Diabetes Congress. Despite impressive progress, many of the world’s poorest patients, including many children and young adults with type 1 diabetes, do not have access to the life-saving care they need.

Maia Olsen and Hermione Risselin

Partners In Health
Dr. Hermione Risselin Louis, pediatrician with PIH Haiti / Zanmi Lasante, and NCD Synergies team member Maia Olsen at the IDF conference in Vancouver in December, 2015.

“Many children with diabetes arrive at our hospital in Mirebalais in serious condition – it’s a problem we must address in Haiti.

Life is too precious. It is necessary to recognize the symptoms and diagnose diabetes early so we can prevent diabetic coma and death.

Training and support of health workers, addressing stigma in the community, and education for families are also critical to improve treatment and control of diabetes.”
Dr. Hermione Risselin Louis, pediatrician with PIH Haiti / Zanmi Lasante

With leadership from clinicians in Haiti and Rwanda, PIH is working to change the unjust realities that our diabetes patients face. With support from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, PIH is collaborating with Ministries of Health in these countries to integrate pediatric diabetes care within NCD programs at public health facilities in the regions where we work, in addition to supporting technical assistance and operational research in diabetes and NCDs at the national level.

In 2015, the NCD teams in Haiti and Rwanda made some great strides in this work, including:

  • Developing protocols and providing advanced diabetes and NCD training to over 180 doctors, nurses, and social workers across Haiti and Rwanda.
  • Providing care to children and young adults diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, including food and transportation support to over 58 families in Rwanda to help mitigate challenges that poverty poses to young patients facing chronic disease.
  • Improving medical supply chain systems to continue to ensure access to necessary diabetes and NCD medicines in the facilities we support.
  • Increasing case detection for diabetes by improving diabetes screening protocols and standard-of-care diagnostics at our facilities in Haiti and Rwanda.

In Rwanda, the PIH team is also partnering with the Rwanda Diabetes Association on supporting type 1 patients and providing necessary medical equipment. In Haiti, the PIH team is collaborating with the Fondation Haïtienne de Diabète et de Maladies Cardo-Vasculaires (FHADIMAC) on health worker training.

“Patient education is essential for diabetes management. As a Haitian physician, I’ve experienced how economic and social barriers such as poverty and illiteracy can become major obstacles to providing the best care possible to our patients living with chronic diseases.”
Dr. Waking Jean-Baptiste, NCD physician at PIH Haiti / Zanmi Lasante

In addition to PIH’s efforts focused on care delivery and public sector accompaniment in Haiti and Rwanda, the Helmsley Charitable Trust has extended their commitment to expanding access to quality diabetes care through other global partnerships such as a research study called “Addressing the Challenge and Constraints of Insulin Sources and Supply” (ACCISS), led by Health Action International, Boston University, and the University of Geneva. For more information about these related initiatives, read the April 2015 Lancet Commentary.

“Ensuring access to insulin would be a turning point in the fight against NCDs in Haiti. When there is poor access to insulin and routine secondary care, it can be very difficult for patients to manage their disease and prevent life-threatening complications.”
Dr. Waking Jean-Baptiste, NCD physician at PIH Haiti / Zanmi Lasante

A commitment to addressing inequities in access to necessary medical care is imperative for the world’s most vulnerable diabetes patients. In Vancouver, we are honored to stand alongside our inspiring colleagues committed to addressing diabetes and poverty in Haiti, Rwanda, and low-income countries worldwide.