20 Jun 2016

Tonga rejects figures from global nutrition report

6:15 am on 20 June 2016

The public health director of a Pacific regional body is refuting figures in a global nutrition report which showed Tonga as having the highest prevalence of diabetes.

A sign to raise awareness about the dangers of diabetes, a major killer in Pacific Island countries, in Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Diabetes is on the rise in the Pacific region. Photo: RNZI/Sally Round

The report, backed by the World Health Organisation, puts Pacific island countries at the top of malnutrition statistics and shows most of them will fail to reach global nutrition targets set for 2025.

Paula Vivili said while the figures differ from Tonga's own surveys, he does agree that diabetes is a significant issue in the region.

The report also states most Pacific countries showed no progress in implementing healthy diet policies.

Mr Vivili said he disagrees and said Tonga has been a leading example with its taxes on unhealthy foods.

"We have put taxes on unhealthy foods like muttonflaps, fizzy drinks, large noodles and such foods," he said.

"And have taken off the tax for instance on fruit and vegtables, so now people find fruits imported from overseas, much more accessible. The goal should be to make healthy choices the easier choices."