Micronesia is made up of many islands, and is filled with rich and diverse cultures. The songs, stories, and people of Micronesia truly make up a land of beauty. However, in a time of global economic flux and uncertainty, there are few doctors and many pressing health problems.
Much-needed specialty care for joint, eye, or other problems is unavailable due to a limited amount of personnel and resources, and the diabetes epidemic has reached a critical scale–now, 50% of those over 35 in the Marshall Islands have the disease. Through our work, we endeavor to help provide solutions to these problems to bring health and wholeness to the people of Micronesia.
A Brief History
Micronesia is a region east of the Philippines and south of Guam, where thousands of small islands lie scattered across the Pacific Ocean. The countries Canvasback works with–the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshall Islands–have a combined population of 156,000 people on only 340 sq. miles of land.
World War II left the beautiful Micronesian islands–a crucial part of the Pacific Theater–battered from constant battle and foreign occupation. The Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia became trust territories of the United States after the war in a move designed to help the islands rebuild and gain economic independence.
Yet the U.S. military had a new war technology that needed further testing–the atomic bomb. During the Cold War, over 50 nuclear tests were conducted on Bikini and Eniwetok Atolls. Marshallese were displaced from their homes, and many were poisoned by radioactive fallout.
At the same time, the culture began to change from a barter society to a cash society, and the U.S. supplied low-fiber refined foods such as white rice, white flour, and sugar. This eventually replaced the traditional Micronesian diet, leading to a dependence on foreign food and a series of health problems.
The Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia are no longer U.S. trust territories. They are sovereign and independent states, but the problems from World War II and their foreign control remain. This is the history of Micronesia, a land that is forgotten. Canvasback's mission is twofold: to work with existing health services to enable them to provide specialized medical care that is otherwise unavailable and to help reverse the epidemic of diabetes in the Marshall Islands.
The Issues we address
Other Healthcare Needs
When the Micronesian nations were United States trust territories, the U.S. supplied them with food. They sent nonperishable foods: canned meats and vegetables, white flour, white sugar, and white rice. These new foods were low in fiber and high in fat and sugar. Since they were convenient in a country with difficult, sandy soil, they became the staple diet. This poor diet, high in sugar, has created an epidemic of diabetes so prevalent that 50% of those over 35 in the Marshall Islands have diabetes.
Diabetes and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular diseases and cancer, cause a number of other health problems. Those with NCDs have a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. NCDs damage the kidney and cause dental diseases. Many in Micronesia are blind from the combination of diabetes and the harsh equatorial sun. Diabetes also causes circulation problems, as well as the number one surgery–lower limb amputations–in the Marshall Islands.
At the Canvasback Wellness Center, our patients learn about the causes of diabetes and other NCDs. They are given the keys to reverse their own cases on their own, and ensure that their loved ones are also equipped to take care of their health.
Micronesia covers an area of ocean larger than the United States, yet if its land mass were combined it would be smaller than Rhode Island. As a result, there are only six public hospitals in the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia, and they staff very few specialty surgeons.
Serious health problems often go untreated for years because of the lack of resources, equipment and supplies, and qualified specialists who can diagnose and address needs. Patients in need of joint replacements are crippled for years. Blind people suffering from cataracts require the assistance of family to navigate through life's daily chores. Children and adults suffer from untreated ear infections that lead to deafness.
Many of these problems are treated by Canvasback's specialty medical teams. In minutes, surgeons can replace cataracts and make the blind see. In hours, doctors can get the deaf to hear, or the lame to walk again.
Canvasback Missions brings otherwise unavailable specialty medical care to Micronesia. Canvasback is able to provide these services for free through generous donations of medical equipment, volunteer doctors, Micronesian hospital cooperation, and support from people in Micronesia and the United States.