The Government of St. Lucia announces a major national initiative to improve the health of St. Lucian citizens today, by launching unique public-private partnership that will transform the fight against diabetes.
This project, launched by the Ministry of Health, Wellness and Gender Relations in partnership with a non-profit entity supported by the Switzerland-based W Science, will create a new regional standard in diagnosing, treating and pioneering research into this chronic condition.
The initiative will be led by the newly established National Diabetes Coordinating Centre (NDCC), and accompanied in the forthcoming twelve months by:
· A nationwide diabetes screening programme, which will provide immediate value for the community and the national healthcare service, as earlier diagnosis and timely treatment is key to preventing the development of debilitating long-term complications such as blindness, amputation, heart disease and kidney disease;
· An educational awareness-raising campaign across the country, so that every generation of St. Lucians will learn not only about the consequences of the disease, but how to prevent and slow its progression through positive fitness, lifestyle and nutritional choices;
· A world-class training programme to create a St. Lucian team of specialist diabetes nurses, on a par with diabetes care specialists anywhere else in the Caribbean region, who will further transform the management and treatment of diabetes in St. Lucia; and
· A national registry of people with diabetes that will greatly enhance clinical care and research in St. Lucia and the Caribbean region.
Speaking at the launch event, Minister for Health the Hon. Alvina Reynolds said:
“Diabetes is an endemic public health issue in St. Lucia, and one of the leading causes of early death. Taking into account the myriad and long-term complications of this condition, its impact on public health resources, national finances and the fabric of St. Lucian society is enormous. It is a sad fact that almost everyone on this island has a friend, neighbour or loved one who has been affected by diabetes in some way. As such, identifying and establishing mechanisms to better prevent, diagnose and treat diabetes is one of the single greatest health priorities for this Government.”
Today’s announcement follows more than a year of in-depth feasibility studies to identify an impactful response to the diabetes situation in St. Lucia. This has included a series of on-the-ground scoping exercises and stakeholder meetings in the past twelve months by W Science’s expert medical, research and information and communication technology (ICT) teams. The research team was led by Prof. Philippe Halban, a global authority on diabetes research with more than 40 years of experience in the field.
The NDCC will be directed by a team of national and international diabetes, healthcare and IT expert advisors. Clinical research at the Centre will drive improved treatment and care of people with diabetes in St. Lucia, alongside provisions for an immediate expansion of medical equipment and medication available through island-wide primary healthcare centres. This will include an increase in the number of lifesaving dialysis machines required to treat patients with serious renal failure, as well as additional funding for essential diabetes medication.
The Centre will be run by a team of newly-recruited local clinical and administrative specialists, who will coordinate all aspects of the project with full involvement from primary healthcare centres, Government ministries, regulatory authorities, academic institutions and non-governmental organisations.
The St. Lucian Government are grateful to W Science, who are supporting this collaboration with the intention that it delivers social and economic value; builds a network of leading partners; and establishes a sustainable medical infrastructure in St. Lucia. This diabetes initiative will be a unique and highly innovative public-private partnership devoted to chronic disease management, allowing us to pioneer a new model in the global combat against chronic health problems.
The Hon. Alvina Reynolds added:
“In 2014, there were over 10,200 people with diabetes in St. Lucia and possibly that number again not yet diagnosed. By making this investment in the country’s health and wellbeing now, this Government is expressing its determination to tackle one of the greatest obstacles preventing too many St. Lucians from living their lives to the fullest and achieving their true potential. St. Lucia will and must lead the diabetes fightback, and it starts today.”