The Pacific's non-communicable disease epidemic is not due to poor lifestyle choices according to the Pacific Community.
Non-communicable diseases or NCDs are the leading cause of death in the region and Pacific island countries are ranked among the top 10 countries for prevalence of diabetes in the world.
But the director general of the SPC Colin Tukuitonga said calling them lifestyle diseases was wrong because it implied that people had a choice when, in fact, many Pacific people and especially children were victims of their circumstances.
"And so it is actually quite an expensive business having a healthy diet and to simply say well at the end of the day it is a choice thing and it's individual responsibility is unfortunate because we know that there are systemic issues that also have a bearing on this. The environment in which people live and work will have a bearing."
Mr Tukuitonga who is a keynote speaker at the 15th World Congress on Public Health underway in Melbourne, Australia, said framing the NCDs as more than just health issues could see more done to tackle the epidemic.
"So hopefully the development banks will see this as a drain on the economic potential of the countries and they may well allocate some funding to tackle NCDs. At the local level ministers of finance will see this as a barrier to their development potential and again might allocate the necessary resources."