Discussing disability issues internationally

Date published:
23 Aug 2018

RACP Fellows Doctors Tracey Symmons, Anne Drake, Kimberly Oman and Professor Robert Moulds took part in the Internal Medicine Organisation of the Pacific (iMOP) Annual Scientific Conference held in Suva, Fiji on Thursday 23 and Friday 24 August.

Effectively tackling disability issues in resource deprived settings was the focus of conference – which was opened by the Fiji Minister of Health, the Honourable Rosy Akbar and drew speakers and delegates from across the Pacific, Australia, New Zealand and India.  

“Where is disability preventable in low resource settings and can we enable people to have a life worth living, that is meaningful and can enable enhanced participation in society?” Dr Symmons asked in her key note address. She also noted that disability should not be regarded as just part of the human condition, that needs to be accepted and endured and that we should not be looking at disability as being dichotomous – disabled or not disabled. 

Dr Symmons said while the Pacific region is known for cyclones, floods, tsunamis, earthquakes and other natural disasters – the real challenge was resource limitations.  Limitations in the health sector related to human resources, procurement, health facilities and supplies as well as the challenges of helping communities isolated by environment and geography access health care. 

While noting the key challenge she called on the region to take proactive measures to minimise the effects of disabling conditions, and to limit the impact of these conditions on the lives of people living in the Pacific.   She noted that a tidal wave of non-communicable diseases has been sweeping the region and which results in individuals losing limbs, sustaining strokes and becoming weaker from cancer and respiratory diseases.   The region also experiences conditions rarely seen in resource rich settings, such as Potts disease, tuberculosis, meningitis, leprosy, tetanus, effects from neonatal sepsis and limited antenatal care, and effects of rising road related trauma in a setting that has few mechanisms for injury reduction.   She noted examples of good work happening in the region and asked “Can more be done?”

RACP Fellow Dr Anne Drake also attended the conference and spoke about infectious complications arising from disability. Dr Kimberly Oman attended and spoke about the prevention of disability in patients with advanced HIV. Professor Robert Moulds led a team during a debate about the topic Older and Wiser vs Younger and Bolder

Specialists from Apollo Hospital in India made several case study presentations on cardiac, oncology and dialysis related matters. Final year Masters of Medicine internal medicine candidates from Fiji National University presented their research findings. Trends and childhood cancer outcomes, stemming from a paediatric oncology twinning program between Fiji and New Zealand hospitals, was the focus of one of the presentations.

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