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Saturday, December 16

Events examine global medical problems


With urbanization comes increasing health concerns, and developing nations without well-developed infrastructure for providing medical support will face challenges.

Dr. Peter Butler, director of the Larry L. Hillblom Islet Research Center at UCLA, will be giving a lunchtime lecture today about the spread of Type 2 diabetes in India, a major developing country that is urbanizing at a high rate.

This presentation is one of Global Health Awareness Week’s events designed to foster discourse on international health challenges and bring attention to health concerns in countries such as India and Haiti.

Mixing students with medical professionals, the week offers opportunities for attendees to examine the problems and potential solutions in global health work.

Type 2 diabetes, now recognized as a major health issue in developing countries, threatens those who work in major cities of countries like India and China, Dr. Butler said.

Urbanization is a major risk factor in the spread of the disease, which causes a relatively young death and high health care cost for the countries concerned, Dr. Butler said. These working populations’ adaptations to a Western lifestyle and a vehicle-centric culture limit their opportunities for walking and exercising. Ultimately, the urban lifestyle puts them at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes and other health problems.

“Cities should be designed with the idea that people need to exercise, people need space, (and) they need recreational exercise,” he said. “The more time you spend in a car, the worse off you are.”

As the cases of diabetes increase, Butler said he believes a healthy lifestyle intervention will eventually become a priority for these working populations.

Another growing worldwide burden is the shortage of health care providers, said Dr. Eric Savitsky, a professor of emergency medicine who will give a lunchtime lecture on Friday about injury care and the global shortage of trained health care workers. The World Health Organization estimates this shortage exceeds nearly four million trained health care workers, he added.

The training and education of health care workers will need to become more efficient in the near future. The convergence of health, technology and digital media will provide educators with the resources needed to develop effective large-scale training programs, Savitsky said. Creating funds for these efforts will be essential to realizing the potential of computer-based training programs, he added.

Another event held tonight, the Perspectives from the Field: Medical Relief following the Earthquake in Haiti discussion panel, unites physicians who have worked in Haiti since the January earthquake. Panel members will give attendees their perspective on how effective relief work in Haiti has been, and also on which preexisting conditions contributed to Haiti’s current disarray, said Rita Baumgartner, a UCLA medical student coordinating the event.

The panel will also allow global health professionals to discuss the best practices for international mobilization during major disasters, according to the Global Health Awareness Week Web site.

Although relief efforts are focused on the immediate crisis and the country’s basic needs, improving the nation’s poor infrastructure is also a crucial issue, Baumgartner said.

Baumgartner, who deferred acceptance to medical school for a year to work at a nonprofit organization’s clinic in rural Haiti, said she worries that fundraisers for Haiti will become less glamorous in the near future.

“When you get into these things that (are) without the immediate rewards, and you’re working on fixing a much deeper and longer term problem, will people push through on that?” she added.

Stemming from the week’s goals to educate and unite the community, Thursday’s Global Health Professional and Student Dinner will connect diverse professional and undergraduate students with global health experts.

Following the event’s opening remarks by key note speaker Steffanie Strathdee, the Chief of the Division of Global Public Health in the Department of Medicine at UC San Diego, and also a presentation by the dean of the David Geffen School of Medicine, attendees will move into separate roundtables for dinner and interactive discussion.

With about 20 present global health professionals, most of whom are UCLA and USC faculty, students are encouraged to discuss the challenges in global health and how to provide sustainable care in troubled countries, said Jessica Howard-Anderson, a UCLA medical student coordinating the dinner.

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