Cook Islands target youth to combat NCDs
A school and community partnership in the Cook Islands is aiming to change the mindsets of its youth as a way to combat non-communicable diseases in the country.
A school and community partnership in the Cook Islands wants to change its young people's mindset as a way of combatting non-communicable diseases in the country.
According to the Health Ministry, one in three adults in the Cook Islands suffers from NCDs or so-called life-style diseases.
Indira Stewart has more
The country's education and health ministry teamed up with the Liggins Institute at the University of Auckland over the past three years to develop a science and health project involving Nukutere, Titikaveka and Tereora Colleges. Karen Tairea from the Health Ministry says targeting the youth may be the key to fighting the NCD epidemic.
KAREN TAIREA "I think we've almost given up on the adult population. You know, their habits are so ingrained. But we're hoping to, through this programme, is to get the younger lot, thinking a lot more about their behaviours and the impact that it has on their health, so that they can make the right choices. But it's not just that, it's them taking the message home to their families."
Tereora College Principal, Tania Morgan, agrees and says the students aren't the only ones who have been reached by the project.
TANIA MORGAN: "It's certainly raised the awareness, not just amongst the students but the staff and our wider community as well. So, in terms of that, that's been a real positive for us."
The project incorporated issues relating to NCDs through various parts of the schools' curricula and encouraged students to explore the impacts NCDs had in their families and communities. Jacquie Bay from the Liggins Institute, says the project was eye-opening for students.
JACQUIE BAY: "They're telling us that until they saw the data, because the learning resources are actually getting the kids to explore the data about NCDs in their community and internationally. And they said, 'you know, until we saw the data, we didn't believe it'. And then they talk about the fact that that allowed them to take the conversations around the dinner table at home."
More than 50 educators, health professionals and community leaders are meeting this week in Rarotonga to discuss how the pilot project could be extended throughout the country. Ms Bay hopes the project can be established throughout the region.
JACQUIE BAY: "One of the things we've done is build the learning modules so that we have identified stories that any of the countries in the region could pick up. And we've also used a lot of regional-wide evidence for the kids to explore and then to look at that within their own context. We think that there's a lot of potential for other countries to particularly pick up and look at what's being going on in the Cook Islands."
Jacquie Bay says a similar project is currently being run in Tonga.
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