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Healthy Soldiers, Healthy Population In The Cook Islands

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Healthy Soldiers, Healthy Population In The Cook Islands

10 June 2009 - Health in one way or another has always been part of military operations whether it is ensuring the soldier has good feet to walk on, good teeth to eat with, or good water to drink.

Exercise Tropic Twilight underway on Pukapuka in the Cook Islands and involving 57 NZ Army engineers and medical personnel has provided an opportunity to test the medical team's deployment capability into a remote tropical environment. The deployment has also enabled the team to provide assistance to our Pacific neighbours as they work with the Cook Island Ministry of Health.

A team of eight Ministry of Health personnel joined the land forces onboard HMNZS Canterbury in Apia, Samoa. The NZDF Primary Healthcare Team is working with Ministry of Health personnel to conduct a health survey of 18 to 65 year olds and all school children, to determine the extent of several major risk factors for common non-communicable diseases like heart disease and diabetes.

Disease risk factors include high blood pressure, obesity, lack of exercise, poor diet, age and the use of tobacco and alcohol. All survey participants will be required to answer a series of interview questions before seeing medical personnel to have their height, weight and blood pressure measured. Local government health workers have been working alongside the NZDF medical contingent to identify the most effective use of the information that is being collected.

The Primary Healthcare Team will also be conducting Pap Smears, for the early identification and treatment of cervical cancer.

A Medical Scientific Officer has also been deployed with the team to process blood samples. Blood tests are being conducted to record blood sugars and fats. The tropical heat has posed a major challenge for the successful function of laboratory facilities. Maintaining the blood fridge temperature at 1-4 Degrees Celsius has been achieved by cooling the exterior of the fridges with fans that are constantly operating.

A NZ Army Territorial Force team of three dentists and five support staff from 2nd Health Support Battalion has been carrying out checks for all school age children and has carried out procedures on islanders who have been found to need dental work or dentures.

The remote location of Pukapuka means that knowledge of first aid could save a life. The First Aid Training Team is conducting two courses in the application of first aid, with the first of the courses successfully qualifying 12 residents of Pukapuka in basic first aid. The second course of 12 students is due to commence this week..

All information gathered during Tropic Twilight is for the use of the Cook Island Ministry of Health. The information will be essential for follow up care, and enable them to develop public health programs that are relevant to the needs of Pukapuka.

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