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UWI's top diabetes expert gets WHO appointment

Tuesday, March 25, 2014    

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IN the week of its ground-breaking annual conference that will throw the spotlight on "Diabetes and Sports", the University Diabetes Outreach Programme (UDOP) is celebrating a major international appointment of one of its most outstanding experts.

Kingston-based Trinidad-born Professor Dalip Ragoobirsingh has just been invited to be a member of the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines development expert group, a recognition of his high quality work in diabetes and nutrition in the Caribbean.

Ragoobirsingh is the man who was humorously called the 'Grinch who stole Christmas' in a Jamaica Observer article last December in which he warned against overeating, drunkness and smoking, as part of his relentless campaign to reduce or manage diabetes.

"This is, no doubt, a signal honour for the University of the West Indies (UWI), of which he is a graduate, and is currently Professor of Medical Biochemistry and Diabetology, as well as Director of the UWI (Mona) Diabetes Education Programme.

Dr Ragoobirsingh was identified from WHO's search for international specialists to advise the United Nations agency on the choice of important outcomes for decision-making and in the interpretation of the evidence for making recommendations.

"This is in keeping with the 65th World Health Assembly comprehensive implementation plan on maternal, infant and young child nutrition," the Diabetes Outreach Programme said in a press statement lauding the appointment.

Dr Ragoobirsingh's appointment has come close on the heels of his publication in the prestigious British Medical Journal, based on a study done in collaboration with the Florida International University and with the blessings of the ministries of education and health on 276 Jamaican adolescents aged 14-19 years, randomly selected from grades nine to 12 from 10 high schools on the island and including both genders.

The study showed that Jamaican adolescents are at risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular diseases, with females being at greater risk than their male counterparts. It recommended that intervention measures are needed to educate Jamaican adolescents to reduce overweight and subsequently the risk factors.

"It is more providence than coincidence that this news comes as UDOP is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its annual conference and graduate course on diabetes mellitus and its complications under the theme "Diabetes and Sports," the UDOP said.

The conference will be held at the Sunset Jamaica Grande Resort in Ocho Rios from March 27-29. The keynote speaker at the opening ceremony is minister of statewithout portfolio, with responsibility for sports, Natalie Neita Headley.

Prof Ragoobirsingh, a Rhodes Trust scholar, was previously invited to Geneva in 2008 to advise WHO on its Peers in Progress programme for the treatment of diabetes mellitus. This followed his sabbatical attachment, as a Fulbright Scholar, to the Unit of Non-communicable Diseases of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) headquarters in Washington DC.

He subsequently served as technical advisor to the PAHO project on Improvement Initiatives for Diabetes Management in the Caribbean. The latter included 10 territories: Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, Barbados, Belize, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St Lucia, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago. The specific goal of this project was to achieve real and sustained improvements in diabetes care in these countries.

The Caribbean now benefits from 14 technical reports, a major PAHO collaborative manual on diabetes education and the Caribbean Chronic Disease Passport, a patient-held medical record, which were developed out of this exercise.

-- Desmond Allen

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