Tonga government launches strategy to curb NCD epidemic
Tonga's government last week launched its third National Strategy plan to curb the country's NCD epidemic.
Tonga's government has launched its third national strategy plan to curb the country's NCD epidemic.
99 percent of Tonga's adult population is affected by Non-Communicable Diseases, according to the government's latest statistics.
The Prime Minister 'Akilisi Pohiva says despite Tonga being the first in the region to formulate its own scheme to reduce the NCD problem, the numbers have increased.
The five year plan will be coordinated by Tonga Health.
Its CEO, Seini Filiai spoke to Indira Moala.
SEINI FILIAI: Trying to convince people to live healthy lifestyles is difficult. We've done campaigns but also the governance of NCD work in the past ten years - there was no organisation to coordinate all the NCD activities and no orgranisation to seek funding in a centralised funding pool that could be given out to various stakeholders to fund activities to reduce or control NCDs.
Indira Moala: So do you think better management or better coordination done by Tonga Health, which is your organisation, will make a difference to those statistics?
SF: Oh yes, definitely. But with this one - the third strategy we have, at Tonga Health, set up a monitoring and evaluation framework which was developed in consultation with the stakeholders because we have already identified stakeholders that would implement the activities for us. And we've actually met with most of them and agreed at what indicators they would produce and provide to us regularly, so that we are able to monitor and evaluate the progress of the implementation.
IM: What about diet? How difficult is it to educate Tongans about a change in diet? It's part of Tongan culture that when you celebrate traditional feasts - a lot of those include high-cholesterol/high-fat meats, lots of coconut oil and coconut cream. And that's just normal. What kind of education is being done around changing diet?
SF: Diet or nutrition is one of the major focus areas that we will tackle. Of course our food culture is very difficult to break. But we try and work with the churches, with schools, with specific villages to try and mobilise people in smaller groups. It's difficult but I believe what we can do will make a difference.
IM: Of all the NCDs, which is the most prominent in Tonga?
SF: I think diabetes. I think diabetes and all the cardio-related diseases. Yeah. But I think diabetes would be the biggest.
IM: So that's one that's strongly connected with diet and nutrition.
SF: Oh yes, definitely. But also, obesity is a big concern in Tonga and again diet and physical activities.
IM: Sure, the latest figures by the World Bank - a World Bank Health Report shows that more than half of the adult males in Tonga are estimated to be obese and I do note that the prime minister 'Akilisi Pohiva seems to be the only one in cabinet at the moment that isn't obese.
SF: I'm sorry but I cannot comment.
IM: Oh no, I'm not asking you to comment but to the physical eye, if that's something that everyone was to see and to know at the same time that 99 per cent of adults are impacted by NCDs, do you think that maybe it should start from the top?
SF: Well, there are our role models, but not necessarily those up there in cabinet. You know we have role models in the churches, role models in our own families. You know, we look up to our fathers or maybe uncles or grandfathers who lived healthy lifestyles.
To embed this content on your own webpage, cut and paste the following: