17 Mar 2009

Churches to play greater role in health promotion in Tonga

2:18 pm on 17 March 2009

A senior medical officer in Tonga's Ministry of Health hopes the church will be better able to channel the healthy living message to parishioners.

Its part of a new health initiative between the Ministry of Health and Tonga's churches that aims to reduce non-communicable diseases such as diabetes where an estimated 40-percent of the population either have diabetes or are at risk of developing it.

The aim is to convince people to exercise more, eat healthily and not eat too much to avoid obesity.

A taskforce representing a group of churches has now been set up.

Dr Paulo Vivili says people spend a lot of time at church functions, so it's an ideal start, given non-communicable diseases account for four out of the top five causes of deaths in Tonga.

"We think that getting involved with the churches especially in the Tongan society that the church plays an important role in everybody's daily life. Church ministers have a strong voice in the community. Because obviously healthy people is, it's in the interests of the Ministry of Health, the country and the ministry of churches."

Dr Paulo Vivili says 40-percent of the adult population have diabetes or at an increased rate of getting it.