2 Aug 2016

Cook Islands target youth to combat NCDs

2:54 pm on 2 August 2016

A school and community partnership in the Cook Islands is aiming to change the mindset of its youth to help combat non-communicable diseases (NCD) in the country.

Children perform traditional dances during a visit by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the Avarua markets in Rarotonga, Cook Islands on September 1, 2012.

Targeting youth in the Cook Islands may be the key to fighting the NCD epidemic. Photo: AFP

According to the Ministry of Health, one in three adults has an NCD such as cancer, diabetes, or asthma.

The country's education and health ministry has been working with the Liggins Institute at the University of Auckland over the past three years to develop a science and health project involving Nukutere, Titikaveka, and Tereora Colleges.

Karen Tairea from the Ministry of Health said targeting youth may be the key to fighting the NCD epidemic.

"I think we've almost given up on the adult population. You know, their habits are so ingrained," she said.

"But we're hoping to, through this programme, to get the younger lot thinking a lot more about their behaviours and the impact that it has on their health, so that they can make the right choices. But it's not just that, it's them taking the message home to their families."

Students are encouraged to explore the impacts NCDs have in their families and communities and the Liggins Institute's Jacquie Bay said that tactic has worked.

"We've also used a lot of regional-wide evidence for the kids to explore and then to look at that within their own context. We think that there's a lot of potential for other countries to particularly pick up and look at what's being going on in the Cook Islands," she said.

More than 50 educators, health professionals and community leaders will meet in Rarotonga this week to discuss how it could be extended throughout the country.