The diabetes bus stops everywhereNearly 10 percent of the nation’s population ― an estimated 5 million people ― are at risk of developing diabetes later in life. Nearly one-fifth of those at risk are part of Korea’s so-called baby boom era, born from 1955 to 1963 and coming of age during the 1970s and 1980s.
Adding to the threat, people who live in out-of-way places may not bother to get a checkup due to the inconvenience or cost of visiting a health care facility.
One effort to stamp out this scourge consists of a large bus decorated with a colorful bumblebee. The Korean Diabetes Association, which recently overhauled its “diabetes bus,” visits the country’s smallest hamlets and farming communities throughout the year, providing free medical exams and educating people about diabetes.
The bumblebee image on the bus’s body, which replaced a plain white exterior, is part of an overall effort to make the mobile clinic more approachable to patients, said association spokesperson Kim Kwi-nam. Inside the vehicle is the latest in medical testing equipment.
The diabetes bus offers the public free checkups on a variety of health indicators such as blood sugar level, body fat level and blood pressure, all aimed at helping ailing patients and preventing the disease through early diagnosis.
In touring over hill and dale, the bus also serves as a field study tool for gathering data on diabetes rates and other health statistics. The association works to raise awareness of the disease among the public with many projects, but its high-profile bus is the most noticeable.
In rural areas of the country where the nearest hospital is not always so accessible, the bus provides vital medical help.
Since its birth in 1998, the bus has traveled to all corners of the peninsula, including Jeju island via ferry. The bus operates a minimum of four days a week. A medical staff of five ― two doctors, a nurse, a social worker and a nutritionist ― ride aboard this volunteer medical vehicle.
When hospital officials or public health centers in a rural region request a visit, the bus motors out and medical staff from the Korean Diabetes Association in that district are organized to promote the visit and offer other details.
“For the sake of efficiency, the bus tours a certain province for a set time and then moves to other areas,” explains Ms. Kim, clarifying that the bus does not remain on the move at all times.
Kim Gwang-won, the association chairman, says, “The bus contributes to the overall national health and instills in Koreans a proper understanding of diabetes.”
The Korean Diabetes Association bus serves more than 15,000 people a year. The vehicle operates with funding from Abbott Korea Ltd., a medical supplies company.
by Choi Jie-ho
For more information, call (02)794-9064 or visit www.diabetes.or.kr