Little progress despite years of efforts to combat NCDs
Despite efforts to combat the non-communicable-diseases crisis in the region over the years, there's been little progress.
The Director General of the regional body, the Pacific Community, says despite years of effort to combat non-communicable diseases in the region there's been little progress.
The first regional conference on the Pacific's leading cause of death has been held this week in Tonga's capital, Nuku'alofa.
Up to 75 per cent of deaths in the region are related to NCDs.
Colin Tukuitonga spoke to Indira Stewart about why there's been little change, despite efforts over the years to fight the NCD crisis.
COLIN TUKUITONGA: There's been a lot of work and effort by different Pacific Island countries, but we're not seeing the kinds of results that we'd like to see. There are very few indications that obesity is being slowed down, that diabetes is declining. We're not seeing any of that and really, the idea is to get together and to try and get everybody aligned in terms of what we might do next.
INDIRA STEWART: What do you think are the biggest barriers between not being able to see a difference in combating NCD's in the region?
CT: Well firstly it's to recognise that it's a complex problem. It's not just a health problem, it's a socio-economic, political problem. Individuals will ultimately choose what they will eat or not eat but then there are complex factors like the fact that the Pacific Island communities are consuming large quantities of processed foods that are treated, which isn't necessarily the best thing. So it's a very complex issue. We do though see a lot of work being done. We heard from Samoa this morning that increases in taxes have led to a decline in smoking in that country. But overall I have to say that despite all the hard work, we're not really seeing the kinds of impacts that we would like to see.
IS: Do you think there's a need to implement more health policies?
CT: Oh I don't think it's an issue on health policies, if anything it's an issue on food policies, on trade, opportunities for exercise and more physical activity, promotion of sport - all of those things that are actually outside of the health sector. And that's the issue, because most people see this as a health issue when it is not.
IS: The Pacific NCD Roadmap created a couple of years ago - what's the progress been like on that so far since that conference?
CT: Highly variable. Highly variable. I told you about the Samoan experience where clearly they are now taxing tobacco and they've seen an effect. But that's not done across the region. So some countries, Cook Islands has done a good job, New Zealand obviously, but it's not done across the region and that's the problem. And one of the weaknesses in this of course is that the Tobacco industry would still target the countries that don't have effective interactions. So whilst it's good that we have a roadmap, it's not being applied consistently and uniformly across the region.
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