Thursday, July 17, 2008



My host family seemed more curious than usual about my Peace Corps Trainee’s, Trent Lobdell, routine insulin injections and his blood sugar meter. The matai’s wife asked to have her and her husband’s blood sugar measured, just why seemed odd given their limited knowledge of western medicine. Her blood sugar read a normal 105; his 190, a Type 2 diabetic. One could read the apprehension on his face before the reading and the fear afterwards. The results were not unexpected. Trent’s advice was to go to the hospital for treatment.

Indeed “Bad Blood” was in the matai’s family. His father and other relatives had it. Earlier a doctor said he should watch his diet and drink lots of water. What else was said to him, who knows?

My matai (54) is in his most productive years. He is mayor of the village, president of his church, head of his own 10 children and extended family, expanding the plantation to provide more income, and of course, me as another responsibility. Money is extremely tight and maybe he thinks spending money on himself extravagant. He probably could make it through the next 5-10 years before the unseen fires in his body and who knows what else begin to burn through.

Diabetes affects 25% of Samoans. Overweight, smoking, diet, little exercise strike even the most casual observer as a formula for en ever increasing health burden on the country and families. One look at Samoans and the way they live and eat would indicate that the estimate might be low, except for school age children who are very fit.

Maybe I can couple my earlier floating proposal for a Weight Control Clinic with testing and awareness of diabetes. Certainly the two are related. This is a monumental potential Peace Corps project for me. Without the mayor’s support, nothing happens, but maybe, just maybe, he can be nudged forward so that “Bad Blood” is not viewed as a personal weakness, but as a village health issue waiting for his leadership. Wish me luck.

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