The CNMI continues to have one of the highest rates of diabetes cases in the world, making this disease one of the main priorities of the Department of Public Health under the new administration, according to acting Department of Public Health Secretary Joseph Kevin Villagomez.
He told a Senate panel last week that the Division of Public Health would always be at the forefront of efforts to prevent and treat diabetes in the Commonwealth. He also promised to expand the program that specifically targets this disease.
“We continue to rank among the world’s highest rates in diabetes and this has resulted in increased expenditures in healthcare,” said Villagomez, adding that the expansion of the DPH facility is the direct result of higher and uncontrolled diabetes rates.
A high percentage of diabetics in the CNMI result in end-stage renal disease, which requires dialysis in order for patients to remain alive. The CNMI population of dialysis patients is now about 120 and is expected to rise in the next generation or two.
“Our prevention efforts must serve to curtail this alarming rise of diabetes in the CNMI,” said Villagomez.
The incoming health secretary vowed that his office would work closely with other government entities such as the Public School System in order to achieve the goals for the diabetes program and the other programs he promised to accomplish for the CNMI community.
The CNMI has been found to have the largest number of cases of diabetes after Pima Indians and Nauru. Based on 2002 statistics, there are 3,019 known diabetes patients in the CNMI—mostly Chamorros and Carolinians, and Pacific islanders.
Villagomez also told members of the Senate Committee on Executive Appointments and Government Investigation that he has been regularly meeting with all senior program managers of the department to ensure that healthcare needs are being addressed, even as cost-cutting measures are being set in place.
He elaborated on three major reorganizations he is currently undertaking within the department, the first of which is placing all financial divisions under the Secretary of Public Health for more efficient accounting of the department’s financial resources and liabilities.
At the moment, the Division of Public Health, the Commonwealth Health Center, and the Community Guidance Center all have separate financial sections.
Secondly, Villagomez said he would also put the DPH Personnel Section under his office to ensure there would never be any redundancy of functions and to allow for the sharing of personnel resources.
He said the three separate staff members handling human resources is deemed unnecessary and cross-training and sharing of personnel expertise could be better accomplished if they are all placed in one area.
Lastly, he wants DPH to take advantage of information technology. He said the department must maximize the use of technology to help cut costs. The DPH and the guidance center both receive federal grants that allow for the improvement of their IT capability.