CNMI boost efforts to fight non-communicable diseases
CNMI authorities launch new fight against non-communicable diseases.
Health authorities in the Northern Marianas are increasing efforts to address the problem of non-communicable diseases which cause 70 percent of deaths there.
The Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation has scheduled a meeting with community leaders and industry professionals for next month in order to launch a Non-Communicable Disease Alliance.
The CHC Medical Director John Doyle told Koro Vaka'uta what else they are doing to fight the problem of heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.
JOHN DOYLE: What you find in the Pacific is that once you take communicable disease out of the picture as the major cause of death and illness, these background diseases that are there like hypertension, kidney disease, diabetes, start coming to the forefront as the cause of death for your people. We are more or less identifying, that yes, we have a large number of people that suffer from hypertension, from high cholesterol, from heart disease that we were not aware of previously and we are increasing our ability to screen and treat for that and we are doing that through access, opening up more clinics to allow people to get in to see us, so we can identify and treat them.
KORO VAKA'UTA: And it seems to start early as well, in terms of these issues. I saw another piece or slice of a survey which said 45% of seven to ten year olds were already obese, that's got to be concerning.
JD: Absolutely. That's a world-wide epidemic and it's one of the reasons that we are seeing such a spike in diabetes world-wide, obesity and poor feeding habits in general. We are much more prone to this in the South Pacific because the populations tend to be more closed, they tend to be more of a closed type society so the diseases that are largely genetic are starting to show up more and more and at earlier ages. Certainly the obesity is a big part of it and the other part of it is that in the South Pacific, we had so many crises to deal with in the past that we are just now getting to the point where we can adequately address the ongoing wellness and health of the population.
KV: Is education a part of this latest effort as well. Is it three-fold or how is it working?
JD: It's actually going to be the main thrust is going to be education and then of course screening and treatment beyond that. It's the most important part. Pacific Islanders, in general, in the past have had actually a healthy diet. We're talking about folks that eat fish, people that walk a lot, people that do get a lot of exercise, people that have a lot of vegetables and fruits in their diet, just customarily, and we've got away from that because when we quote 'modernised them' end quote, we brought in junk food, everything is convenient and basically destroyed their culture. So the big thing is to educate people and let them know that this is not a big change, go back to what you know already, go back to what your culture tells you you should be eating.
KV: With the efforts like the CHCC is doing, how long before there can be or there will be seen an impact on the types of figures we were talking about earlier?
JD: Positive impacts will actually start taking place immediately because once we start getting some of the unhealthy aspects of the diet out people are going to be able to lose weight and they are going to be able to exercise a bit more. Facts that have come out in different studies, for every five millimetre reduction in blood pressure that you can obtain in the population you get a nine percent reduction in all cases of death. It just spills down, just by bringing blood pressure down five points.
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