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Face of Defense: Dietitian Aids Hawaiians in Underserved Rural Areas

By Army Sgt. Rachel S. Grothe, 305th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

HAWAIIAN OCEAN VIEW, Hawaii, June 16, 2016 — Her enthusiastic explanation of cells swelling with weight gain captivates the crowd. Her mountainside audience contains mostly elderly people awaiting long-delayed medical care.

“We already diagnosed someone as diabetic,” Army Lt. Col. Patricia L. Cue said between nutrition classes. Cue, a registered dietitian nutritionist assigned to 1984th U.S. Army Hospital Pacific, Detachment 1, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, was part of the civilian and military medical team working at the community center hereas part of Tropic Care 2016.

Tropic Care 2016 is a joint services readiness training program led by the Army Reserve and the Hawaii Health Department, assisting local efforts in providing quality health care to underserved rural communities in the Kea’au and Puna districts of the island of Hawaii from May 31 to June 11.

Helping Others

“We’ve been able to catch a lot of people that might slip through the typical health care system and help them get on the right path,” said Cue, who hails from Homer, Alaska. “The lady diagnosed with diabetes didn’t realize her blood sugars were as high as they were. She came back to my nutrition class and was on board.”

Many of the people who came to the Tropic Care clinics live in remote areas on the sparsely populated, lava-rock encrusted southern side of Hawaii, she said. Many have limited mobility, she added, making long trips to larger cities difficult or too expensive.

“A lot of the people here have chronic diseases,” Cue said. “The people here are older and much more actively involved in their health care than young healthy people. They are very grateful for the clinic we’re doing. They want all the information and the services.”

She said the service providers come from all over the world, but realize local culture must be taken into account to make information relevant to their clients’ lives.

“I work for the Kenaitze Indian tribe as a diabetes nutritionist in my civilian job,” Cue said. “I encourage my clients to eat a traditional diet instead of industrialized prepackaged foods, and move them to a healthier more plant-based diet. It helps prevent chronic diseases and is better for the ecosystem.”

“I actually went to [Cue’s] class the other day,” said Rick Ward, Hawaiian Ocean View community emergency response team volunteer. “She helped me [and] made it easier to understand everything by taking the time, giving me the information in a much better way than my doctor did a few weeks ago.”

Cue said she knows it’s important to take time motivating and encouraging people to do what’s best for them, because humans do best when they feel respected.

“People are different, but the same all over the world,” she said. “We put information out relative to the culture, and alternatives that they might actually want to use instead of a generic government food pyramid.”

Cue added, “It feels good, helping people in a meaningful way. We’re all connected on this one planet.”
Distribution channels: Military Industry