A NUMBER of Pacific nations have commended the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) on its work on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) while calling for continued regional support for national efforts.
Speaking at SPC’s annual meeting in Noumea, New Caledonia , Kiribati representative, David Teaabo acknowledged the support of SPC in developing his country’s national NCD plan, which promotes physical activity in maneabas (village gathering places), work places and schools, and in rural areas; anti-smoking campaigns; and home and village gardening.
While noting her country’s support of the implementation of SPC and the World Health Organization’s joint NCD program, Samoa’s representative, Sharon Potoi-Aiafi emphasised the need for the two agencies to recognise the work being done in countries, including through traditional structures, which have the advantage of a sustained presence.
She said there was a need for trained nutritionists in Pacific Islands countries and territories (PICTs) and emphasised the importance of trade and food safety issues, reorientation of approaches to change diets, lowering tariffs on imports of healthy food, and other uses of legislation to encourage people to eat healthy food.
Australia’s representative at the meeting, Romaine Kwesius, noted Australia’s continued support for addressing NCDs in the Pacific Islands region with its commitment of a further AUD$25 million over the next four years.
Working in close collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), SPC has been assisting its 22 Pacific member nations through the 2-1-22 (2 agencies, 1 team, 22 countries) program to address NCDs through costed national NCD strategies; tobacco control legislation and alcohol harm-reduction interventions, as well as other interventions targeting the four main risk factors for NCDs.
The program also promotes national nutritional strategies and provides direct funding through NCD grants to assist countries in implementing their national NCD strategies.
The recent meeting of Pacific Islands Forum Leaders in Auckland acknowledged that NCDs – diabetes, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, heart disease and stroke – have reached epidemic proportions in the region, creating a ‘human, social and economic crisis’ requiring an urgent and comprehensive response.
There are four key risk factors for NCDs – tobacco use (including exposure to second-hand smoke); diets high in fats, salt and sugar; lack of physical activity; and alcohol consumption.
Intermediate risk factors include obesity and abnormal levels of blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol.
All these factors are prevalent in PICTs.
Underlying these main risk factors are socio-economic determinants such as poverty, inequality, unemployment, social instability, unfair trade, and global imbalances, which are the root causes of the NCD crisis.
SPC Director-General Dr Jimmie Rodgers noted, “The emphasis on a ‘whole of government and whole of society’ response to the crisis is critical because the major determinants of NCDs are outside the remit of the health sector, as are their solutions.”
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