ALARMING RATE OF DIABETES IN CNMI

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By Edith G. Alejandro Staff Reporter

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (May 10, 2001 – Saipan Tribune)--One out of every four Chamorros and Carolinians who is over 40 years of age has diabetes.

In addition, a report released by the Department of Public Health revealed that more than 10.5 percent of the islands' Chamorro and Carolinian population are diabetics.

However, health officials said if the increasing diabetes cases in the Northern Marianas already calls for an alarm, the complications brought about by the ailment are far more disturbing.

A report submitted to House Committee on Health and Welfare Chair Malua T. Peter disclosed that Chamorros and Carolinians suffer diabetes-related blindness seven times more often than others.

The local population is also four times more likely to begin kidney dialysis and one and half times more likely to need amputation compared to patients in the mainland United States.

The report also noted that other diabetes complications include heart attack and strokes. In the CNMI, the rate of death among those with diabetes is 10 times more than the prevailing rate on the U.S. mainland.

Amputation cases on the islands climbed to 12.8 percent in recent years compared to 6.6 percent in the mainland U.S.

Almost 15 percent of diabetics in the Northern Marianas have eye diseases while only 2.2 percent of diabetes-stricken Americans encounter similar problems.

Over 2,000 CNMI residents are affected by diabetes, with Chamorros topping the list at 53.5 percent; the Carolinian community accounts for 12.5 percent; other nationalities account for 21 percent; Micronesians account for 13 percent.

This is the case, even though only 29 percent of the entire Commonwealth population is Chamorro and five percent are Carolinians. At least 58 percent are of foreign ethnic backgrounds while eight percent are Micronesian.

Medical records showed that Type II diabetes occurs in severely overweight adults over the age of 40 and rarely requires insulin treatment. This type of diabetes, however, is preventable if proper control and educational programs are well in-placed.

Health officials said this is the reason why DPH wants to hire a diabetes educator and implement a comprehensive diabetes prevention and control program.

A diabetes educator will coordinate and facilitate existing programs that address nutrition and healthy lifestyles.

Because of the alarming rates of diabetics in the CNMI, the House Health and Welfare Committee is working closely with DPH to determine how to extend assistance in effecting the implementation of a comprehensive program.

For additional reports from The Saipan Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Saipan Tribune.

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