Dr. Trevor Orchard (University of Pittsburgh) presented on “Type 1 Diabetes in Rwanda: Challenges, Progress, and More Challenges,” on February 2. Dr. Orchard opened his lecture by covering background information on Youth Onset Type 1 Diabetes touching on his work with the Pittsburgh Diabetes Complications Study. He argues that everyone with Type 1 Diabetes experiences complications, but wants to know what accelerates complications. Dr. Orchard also talked about his work with the IDF Life for a Child Programme. This program operates in 44 countries, working to provide diabetes healthcare to youth. Often, in developing countries diabetes patients do not have access to medical supplies, health professionals have limited knowledge about childhood diabetes, and there are additional challenges relating to education, language, cultural stigmas, and location. Many children with diabetes die prior to diagnosis due to complications and lack of medical care. The Life for a Child Programme aims to address these issues.
Starting in 2008, Dr. Orchard began a partnership with the IDF Life for a Child program, University of Pittsburgh, Rwanda Diabetes Association, School of Public Health, and National University of Rwanda. This partnership sought to research Type-1 Diabetes in Rwanda and provide support to youth with diabetes. Between 2008 and 2012, the program implemented MPH student visits to Rwanda, provider and patient education sessions, training and mentoring for medical staff, patient testing and follow up visits, and increased access to supplies. Some clinical data was also collected at the onset of the study, allowing Dr. Orchard to compare youth diabetes patients in Pittsburgh to those in Rwanda. Through this program, he was also able to conduct a pilot trial aiming to simplify diabetes management protocols used in Rwanda. Currently, Dr. Orchard and the Life for a Child Program are working to develop a plan to ensure the sustainability of support for diabetic youth in Rwanda.