Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Chinese Delegates’ Visit to Toronto

From July 27 to 29, 2009, a group of senior physician delegates from China attended a special three-day visit to Toronto and Ottawa hosted by the Canadian Diabetes Association. We, the Diabetes Education care team, were honoured to be able to participate in hosting the Chinese delegates’ visit to our Diabetes Education Centre DEC) at the Toronto General Hospital (TGH).

The Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA) indicated that an objective of the Chinese delegates’ visit was for the DEC to share and exchange knowledge in the area of diabetes education services including nutrition therapy and lifestyle management perspectives in diabetes management. Diabetes is a growing health concern in China. According to data from the International Diabetes Federation’s 2007 Diabetes World Atlas, 40 million Mainland Chinese are living with diabetes leading to many challenges for Chinese healthcare professionals. The high population of Chinese with Type 2 diabetes may well be linked to China’s growing and prospering economy leading to major dietary and lifestyle changes.

It was our great desire to have an open line of communication between the Chinese delegates and Canadian healthcare professionals. With limited knowledge of the Chinese health care system, clinic and hospital environments, and the distinct provincial backgrounds of the Chinese delegates, the diabetes care team found this visit extremely interesting and insightful.

On the second day of the visit, the 13 delegates arrived at the TGH DEC. They were warmly welcomed by Dr. Rene Wong, Director of Diabetes Care and Education; Marianne Sigmond, Endocrine Program Manager; Ana Offenheim, Patient Care Coordinator; and me (LL), Clinical Dietitian.

Due to time constraints, the delegates had only an hour long visit to the Centre. In a half-hour presentation, the Centre personnel shared information on the diabetes program (program structure, content and focus), and a nutrition management session. Ms. Offenheim presented in English that was translated into Mandarin. I then presented in Mandarin on nutrition management. This created a warm environment close to the delegates’ background so that they could freely express their views, and led to strong, constructive interactions with our foreign guests. Thus, we learned about that multilingual resources and skills are very beneficial in this growing global community.

The delegates responded with great enthusiasm and appreciation that we shared our knowledge and counsel for a successful and effective Diabetes Education program. The delegates applauded our efforts and commitment in creating a solid and well structured program, and commended such a wide availability of services. Our multiprofessional approach toward diabetes management was of great interest to the Chinese delegates as China moves in a new direction toward a widely available and well-constructed diabetes education program.

One major challenge that the Chinese delegates expressed was that the Chinese healthcare system has a high patient consultation to doctor ratio. Massive patient volumes can make it difficult for physicians to include education in patient care.

Acknowledging nutrition management and the Chinese nutritionists’ role as key components in diabetes management, the Chinese delegates were open to new ideas that could successfully lead to positive dietary changes. In recent years, China started to provide professional nutritionist training programs to meet the nation’s growing needs in nutritional management. China and Canada would benefit from sharing nutrition practices and knowledge; such a relationship would help expand professionalism in nutritional care across the two nations.

The Chinese delegates showed great interest in advancing their diabetes education resources, especially after reviewing the array of our educational resources. One of their goals was to enhance quality educational materials to meet the learning needs of the Chinese with diabetes.

Although the Chinese delegates’ visit to the DEC was brief, it proved to be a successful and rewarding experience for both parties. The Chinese delegations’ appreciation of the visit was well demonstrated in their smiles and the warm expressions on their faces. They wished to learn more about diabetes education and practices in Canada. Before their departure, many of the delegates took pictures with the hosts to bring home the memorable moments of this visit. It was evident that the objective of the Chinese delegates’ visit was fulfilled, and that the visit provided them with knowledge, a Canadian perspective, and insights in advancing diabetes education programs. The DEC care team welcomes and embraces future opportunities to share our knowledge, experience and counsel with China as well as other nations, and looks forward to continuing international collaboration in the growing global community.

Louisa Li, RD, CDE
University Health Network
Toronto Western Hospital
Toronto, ON
T: (416) 603-5800 (5968)
E: Louisa.Li@uhn.on.ca


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