“It’s not how much we do, but how much love we put into doing it.

– Mother Teresa

 

Our Project

 In 2013, The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) estimated that 382 million adults had diabetes worldwide, with China (98.4 million) and India (65.1 million) having the highest incidence. in Western countries, Type II diabetes in Southern India can be traced to obesity, diet, and lack of exercise. However, there also appears to be a genetic predisposition among the Southern Indian population toward insulin resistance (a hallmark of Type II diabetes) in addition to dietary factors. Families in Southern India primarily eat rice and little protein, and they cook with oil that is high in saturated fat — all of which may contribute to the unusually high incidence of Type II diabetes in the region. Project Starfish, therefore, strives to identify diabetics, treat them with oral hypoglycemic drugs, and educate them about adopting healthy lifestyle changes so they can:

  • Proactively engage in their own health care
  • Enable their children to take preventative measures by adopting their parents’ healthier lifestyles
  • Ultimately decrease their risks of developing Type II diabetes

 

Structure & Operations

In January 2014, eight medical camps were established in the rural villages surrounding Nagercoil, with Holy Cross Hospital as the hub. Each camp has an Indian coordinator to work with its community as we coordinate the clinic with both the American and Indian teams. These teams will consist of doctors, nurses, nursing students, pharmacists, and a dietician. The goal is for the Indian team to continue the diabetic camps after the departure of the 2015 American team.

One of the tools we plan to utilize is peer support groups in the camps. Although this concept has not been routinely used in India, it has been suggested by the Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS) in Kerala. They noted that “patients and their families, (which are large networks of friends and relatives), are the most undervalued assets in the India healthcare system, (as well as) the strong social and cultural fabric.”

Furthermore, studies of diabetic patients in US veterans’ hospitals showed that, by using peer support groups, which focus on wellness and recovery rather than illness and disability, there was an overall reduction of 1.4 points in the A1c diagnostic scores as compared to the nurse care group. In addition, peer support has even proven to be more effective than support provided by family and friends. Therefore, to help us plan for and implement our peer support group program, we contacted Project HOPE officials, who have kindly shared with us their peer support group structure, which they have used with great success for Type II diabetics in Mexico for 10 years.

We are also expanding into pediatrics by virtue of requesting needed equipment for Holy Cross Hospital’s ICUs. In addition, we were asked by Dr. Sudha, one of the primary pediatricians at the hospital, to check the Hb/Hct in women of child-bearing age in our general medical clinics and to start them on iron supplementation if they are anemic. We know that pregnant women with iron-deficiency anemia have a higher incidence of maternal mortality and that this condition has a strong connection with placental weight, birth weight, Apgar score, and incidence of birth asphyxia. Ultimately, we endeavor to answer the all-important question: If anemia could be diagnosed and corrected prior to pregnancy, would this make a difference on perinatal complications as opposed to diagnosis at the time of pregnancy?

After establishing sustainable treatment clinics for diabetics, Project Starfish intends to establish further specialty camps, such as women’s centers in the rural areas of Tamil Nadu.

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