So-called “lifestyle diseases” like diabetes and heart disease have reached epidemic proportions across the Pacific Islands, accounting for up to 75% of all premature deaths.
Solomon Islands former head of surgery Chester Kuma says the island nation “suffers hugely from lifestyle diseases” but just 0.2% of its health budget goes toward tackling the problem.
“I was performing below the knee amputations almost every week as a result of diabetes; it was becoming unbearable for me,” Dr Kuma says. “I decided I would be better off in health promotion because I see that as the only solution to the problem.’”
So Dr Kuma quit his post and accepted an offer from the Adventist Health Ministry. He is now based in NSW as the organization’s director of health for South Pacific region, and the Solomon Islands is never far from his mind.
He has joined forces with other medical professionals and volunteers – including Sibilla Johnson – to provide specialist diagnostic, treatment and preventative services not previously available to the nation’s 600,000 people.
“Our dream is to help address some key deficiencies in the country’s health care and offer a world class service to Solomon Islanders,” Dr Kuma says. “Current diagnostic services in the Solomon Islands are grossly inadequate; lab tests are sent to Australia and it takes so long, many people die before the results even come back; this facility will allow results in minutes.
“A wellness centre will form an essential part of the clinic, enabling us to help people enter a sustained pathway to recovery and lifestyle change.”
He says construction will get underway in early 2018 and the hope is to be fully operational by 2019. But it all comes down to having enough money.
“The Solomon Islands government is very supportive of the project but simply doesn’t have the resources to fund it,” Dr Kuma says. “All the money is coming from private donors and we have enough to get started but we are well short of the A$2 million needed to fully fund the project.”
Sibilla, who has donated generously to the project as well as offering her services at the proposed wellness, hopes others will help achieve Dr Kuma’s dream.
“This project is very dear to me and while I have made a financial contribution it will cost a lot more than what I can provide,” Sibilla says. “I really hope others will help to raise finance for this new centre and make a real difference to many, many people.”
If you want to know more about the project contact Dr Chester Kuma: 0435 044 002.