A Short History
Canvasback Missions started the Wellness Center on Majuro in conjunction with the Ministry of Health in 2005 in response to the increasing incidents of diabetes and other non-communicable diseases. In an island nation where 75% of adults over the age of 50 have diabetes, the Wellness Center works with local organizations, government, and individuals to reach populations throughout the Marshall Islands.
The Wellness Center employs local staff and serves food grown on-site, and it is connected to and works with Majuro Hospital. Through its three-pronged attack–lifestyle intervention, education, and agriculture–the Wellness Center is committed to reversing diabetes in individuals and in the Marshall Islands as a whole.
The Wellness Center has a classroom, a conference room, a gym, a workout room, a demonstration kitchen, and several gardens. Its purpose is not for Canvasback to make change in the Marshall Islands, but to provide the tools that empower participants to make change for themselves.
In 2015, Canvasback facilitated a team of researchers to gather data on community health preferences and opinions. This report informs our programs and can be viewed in its entirety by clicking the link below.
The 3-Pronged Attack
1. Lifestyle Intervention
Canvasback's Wellness Center runs a lifestyle intervention program for individuals who have diabetes or pre-diabetes, or suffer from other non-communicable diseases.
The program implements cutting-edge lifestyle medicine in the treatment and management of patients with type 2 diabetes. Participants learn about the causes and consequences of their diabetes, and why lifestyle changes are more effective than medications in the prevention and treatment of diabetes.
For two weeks, patients eat all meals at the Wellness Center, and also learn how to cook their own healthy food from the Center's award winning chefs. Agriculture experts teach practical gardening skills, and participants have the opportunity to grow their own produce using grow boxes. Participants also learn the basics of fitness through music, dance, and aerobics, led by the Center's excellent Fitness Directors. All participants receive personal attention and regular blood-glucose monitoring, and followup groups for alumni meet monthly to share goals and challenges with one another.
For most participants, the lessons learned at the Wellness Center are life transforming. In many cases, participants can reduce or discontinue medications, and in some cases, the lifestyle interventions result in complete reversal of their disease.
2. Health Education
The lifestyle intervention program works well at the individual level for people who already have diabetes as well as the potential to reverse their symptoms and to live without medication. In order to prevent diabetes and other diet-related diseases from occurring, it is necessary to reach children so that they know how to protect their health. If they learn to make informed choices while young, they may never experience lifestyle diseases.
We feel that education will be critical to stopping the current epidemic, and we are making strides to promote the use of health curricula and exercise regimen island-wide.
Canvasback encourages sports for children and long walks for adults. We strive to bring wellness awareness to the public wherever they can be reached. This includes lectures in civic organizations, cooking classes in churches, health videos, posters, newspaper stories, and radio spots.
Fresh, plant-based diets are essential to reversing diabetes. However, much of the fresh produce available in the Marshall Islands has to be imported from other countries, making it quite expensive. In addition to this, rocky, sandy soil makes agriculture difficult in the low lying atolls.
Canvasback has developed several methods to grow produce, including a cheap and easy method of growing produce by using self-watering homemade earth boxes. Other growing methods include sprouting, hydroponics, raised beds, and agroforestry, which provide food for the Wellness Center demonstration kitchen. Gardeners give classes and provide the supplies that enable participants to grow healthy produce at home.
Not only does this promote self-sufficiency and improve participants' health, but it makes fresh produce affordable to families that otherwise would not have access to nutritious foods.