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Public primary health care workers are taking steps to eradicate the now well-known label placed on Barbados, as "the amputation capital of the world".

To this end, 28 health care professionals today gathered at the Ministry of Health to participate in a two-day advanced Step by Step workshop, focussing on early recognition and wound management of diabetic foot complications.

While delivering remarks at the opening of the workshop, Health Minister, Donville Inniss, noted that a year ago, the Ministry had taken the critical step to prioritise diabetic foot care with the inauguration of a Diabetes Foot Care Committee.??

"This multi-sectoral working group, chaired by Dr. Ingrid Cumberbatch, was mandated to ensure that health care for diabetics is kept to the highest international standards. To date, I am pleased to note the work of this Committee in the area of data collection and surveillance, health education and training of health care professionals," the Health Minister remarked.

Foot complications are a serious and costly complication of diabetes, and according to Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Joy St. John, "through a care strategy that combines prevention, multi-disciplinary treatment approach, and the education of people with diabetes and health care professionals, it is possible to reduce amputation rates by 49 per cent to 85 percent". Currently, approximately 200 amputations are done every year in Barbados.??

Medical Officer of Health at the Winston Scott Polyclinic and Chairman of the Committee, Dr. Ingrid Cumberbatch, disclosed that there were only five podiatrists on the island; and, a team approach was, therefore, critical to tackling diabetic foot care.??

She added:?? "Prior to Step by Step, project evidence, based on research done locally, showed that Barbadians suffered from unusually high prevalence of diabetic foot complications resulting in ulcerations and eventually amputation."?? To help counter this, she revealed that the national programme would be extended to private health care professionals in November.??

Minister Inniss also recognised the efforts of the Diabetic Foot Research and Intervention Group under the chairmanship of Professor Nigel Unwin, Professor of Public Health and Epidemiology, Faculty of Medical Sciences at the Cave Hill Campus, which is currently laying the groundwork for a retrospective prevalence study on amputations in Barbados involving the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

The Health Minister urged diabetics to play their part by taking foot care and prevention of diabetes foot complications seriously. "Examine your feet daily, report any abnormality, for example callouses and bruises, to your health care team, and most importantly wear comfortable footwear," he implored.

The Step by Step programme which was first piloted in India, Bangladesh and St. Lucia, was started in Barbados in 2010, with the basic course, a prerequisite for the advanced course.


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