The Islamic Post Blog

Health Care Symposium by Khalida
January 2, 2009, 8:28 am
Filed under: January Volume I- 2009, Magazine/ Culture, Uncategorized | Tags:

By Dr. Jemille A. Wasi

Islamic Post Staff Writer

An Invitation.

A few months ago I was on call one night in the hospital, and I received a page from the Emergency Department (ED) regarding the admission of a young woman.  The ED record showed that she was a 36 year-old female with Diabetes Mellitus.  As I stepped into the examination room I was surprised to see a bed-ridden, balding somewhat plump African American lady. She had dry, chaffed skin with a mixture of old scars and fresh, gaping wounds that covered a considerable amount of her body.  I began with the usual interview questions asking what brought her to the hospital and how long had this issue been a concern. As the questioning progressed, she told me of her symptoms, her family history of diabetes, and her extensive list of medical problems including high blood pressure, hardened arteries, and her weekly trips to hemodialysis for end-stage kidney disease. She was very non-compliant with her medications, and allowed her blood sugar levels to get out of control.  This inevitably led to the development of the hypertension (high blood pressure) and kidney failure.  This woman was a year older than I, and already had the health status of someone more than twice her age.  The thought that this once vibrant person now had all these health issues and needed dialysis three times a week was very disheartening.
Unfortunately, this is a common issue in the U.S., and many people—especially African Americans—suffer the same fate. This is made worse by the fact that the age of affected individuals is getting younger and younger every year, with increasing numbers of children presenting to doctors’ offices all over America with high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease. I have come to the conclusion that a major reason for this growing trend is that the majority of people are generally not educated on these conditions, or their potential outcomes;  so much so, that when they develop these maladies, they usually don’t seek medical intervention until something has gone drastically wrong, and/or an emergency situation has been created.  This becomes evident by the fact that most newly diagnosed diabetics—especially the children and African American population—usually find out they have disease after they develop Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) and have to go to the emergency department.  Excessive thirst, frequent urination, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, confusion, weakness, or fatigue usually marks DKA.  High blood pressure patients usually come in complaining of severe headaches, visual changes (i.e. blurring or double vision), and sometimes nonspecific complaints like nausea, vomiting, or shortness of breath.  Even worse hypertensives often present to the ED with strokes, heart attacks, and heart or kidney failure.  The gist of it is that many of these conditions are diagnosed in the emergency department or other acute care settings.
I was always told that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, so the key to reversing this growing trend is to institute measures involved in prevention of these diseases.  When this is not always possible, in the least, measures should be initiated to prevent the horrendous outcomes of these ailments.  The most constructive instrument to accomplish this task is effective education.   The U.S. healthcare industry has recognized the importance of education, but really only in regards to decreasing the cost of medical care.  Current initiatives have done little to reduce the disease load in America. Many of the proposed methods involve the patient reading something when they leave the hospital or office, as opposed to learning the information from a knowledgeable staff person. Most of the time, that reading material never makes it home to the patient.  In order for the education to be most effective, a more direct, active approach is necessary.  This may successfully be accomplished by having a formal setting, with a competent teacher to discuss pertinent issues.  Additionally, forums in which healthcare providers and general public meet have the additional effect of providing an opportunity for people to get screened for the aforementioned diseases.
In medical school we would hold yearly health seminars as part of our community service for the Student National Medical Association (SNMA).  Here we had class-like sessions, and gave a series of handouts to all patrons. The class aspect was very informative and useful for all involved.  Recently—as I was discussing a homework project of the Head RN of AMMRT—I remembered these forums from medical school, and thought we could take the class-like features, and hold a health forum in this mold. As the American Muslim Medical Relief Team (AMMRT) is always committed to improving the health of the world community at large, this seemed like a task that would be perfectly fitted for us.  Discussions with multiple members thus yielded the idea of holding a set of subject driven health seminars designed to be interactive and informative.  They will be multi-disciplined, combining the skills of doctors, nurses, physician assistants, and traditional Islamic natural care physicians (hakeems and hakeemahs). The first seminar will be held in late spring/early summer, and will cover the topics of high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol.  In addition to our interactive classes, we will be providing screenings for blood pressure, blood glucose levels, and cholesterol levels.  We will also be offering classes on nutrition, for the right dietary choices are important to consider in any disease process.  Future sessions in this model will be held for subjects pertaining to Obstetrics and Gynecology, First Aid (including CPR instruction), Sickle Cell and other anemias, and Pediatric issues.  Although no final date has been determined, continue to look for updates in subsequent issues of the Islamic Post.  As always, only from Allah, the Most High, can we be healed.


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