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Royal Cornwall Hospital rheumatism specialists help African patients

By bevcoumbe  |  Posted: July 16, 2013

The team from Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro working in Kenya.

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Only two rheumatologists serve a population of 41 million people in Kenya, a situation staff from the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro are working to improve with help from Cornish charities.

Rheumatologist professor Anthony Woolf, research associate Dr Jo Erwin, and research administrator Katie Edwards, are part of a programme aimed at training medics in the African country to diagnose and treat a wide range of musculoskeletal conditions including rheumatoid arthritis.

The trio made their first trip to Kenya in March last year to run the UWEZO Musculoskeletal Health Training Project raising awareness among clinical officers, nurses and other community based health workers and giving them the basic skills in diagnosis and referrals.

The team are now gearing up to go back to Kenya in August for the second course, which will also feature a self-management programme for patients.

The project is a joint initiative with the Swedish Rheumatology Association, the Kenyan Rheumatology Association and the University of Nairobi.

Funding has come from the International League of Associations for Rheumatology (ILAR), Cornwall Arthritis Trust and The Rotary Club in Falmouth.

The week-long course attracts medical personnel from all over Kenya. Professor Woolf said: “We have participants from 11 different regions and we train them to become musculoskeletal health trainers. Once they are certified they then work as a team in their region to train community health providers who are usually the first point of contact for patients. So far our trainers have gone on to train 400 people in eight regions.”

“For us meeting these patients was a bit like going back to the 1950s here. There were people who had lost the use of joints and were bed bound because they had never had treatment or it had come too late.”

The team have so far been fortunate with their funding and donations of equipment have also helped. OT equipment was provided and Bristol company Limbs & Things provided 12 model limbs which will be used in August to demonstrate how to inject into joints.

However, for the programme to move forward next year, the team will need to find new funding sources. “We were lucky to get additional funding from ILAR this year. They normally only fund international projects for one year but due to our success they extended our funding for a further 12 months. We will need to find another donor to keep next year’s course viable,” Dr Erwin added.

If anyone wants to donate to the programme or would like more information, please contact Dr Erwin on 01872 256431 or email josephine.erwin@cornwall.nhs.uk

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