November 2017 Impact Brief


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Note: We are making a few changes to the Impact Brief this fall to make it an even more valuable tool for you. Let us know what you think of our progress by emailing

November has been National Diabetes Awareness Month, and it was appropriate that I spent some of this important observance in Guam for the Healthy Island, Healthy People conference.

I can think of few places more beautiful and welcoming, and it is disturbing to know that the people of the U.S. Associated Pacific Islands face a devastating threat – not from North Korea, but a clear and present danger posed by an estimated 80 percent of the population at high pre-diabetes and cardio-metabolic risk.

During my trip, I met with policy makers, physicians, nurses, extenders, and pharmacists who shared with me the changing socio-economic factors contributing to this terrible disease burden – aging populations, stagnant economic growth, and an increase in unhealthy behaviors (tobacco and risky alcohol use, physical inactivity, and poor diets).

Unless there is a renewed sense of urgency, focus, and resources invested in the USPAI, we may see further, needless loss of life and increased morbidity, the likes of which may be impossible to recover from.

Fortunately, there are dedicated and exceptional public health workers seeking to stem this rising tide of disease burden.

The Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services does amazing work despite an aging public health infrastructure, a lack of equipment and personnel, and an even greater lack of time and money. So, they’ve had to think creatively about how to turn this diabetes/obesity epidemic around, and one of their greatest successes so far has been the Non-Communicable Disease Consortium.

The Consortium has bridged local and global partners to work on lifesaving and life-improving NCD initiatives on priorities such as breastfeeding promotion, community gardens, salt reduction, healthy menus, childhood obesity prevention, employee worksite wellness, and tobacco prevention.

The NCD Consortium’s effectiveness even has prompted partners such as the World Health Organization and the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine to support unfunded priorities.

With great leaders like Rosalie Zabala and James Gillan, the USPAI can continue to make progress and a positive difference for the people of these important communities. But we need your support to call on our government and foundations to invest in what’s working and help bring prevention activities to scale.

After all, the Pacific’s success is America’s success. From “sea to shining sea” in 50 states and nine territories, there is no “them” in public health. Only U.S.

P.S. If you haven’t seen season 2 of “Your Health” with Joan Lunden on prediabetes and diabetes awareness, check out the videos today. They provide brief, practical information for anyone to take better control of their own health. We are proud to have participated in the development of this CDC-sponsored series, and I hope you will share the videos widely with your colleagues, friends, and family.

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