Pacific Directors of Health are meeting today to consider critical actions to respond to the non-communicable disease (NCD) crisis in the Pacific. The topic will be one of a number of issues discussed at the second Pacific Directors of Health meeting, which is being convened by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and regional partners in Nadi, Fiji from 29 to 30 April 2014.
NCDs such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer account for about 70% of all deaths in the Pacific region, yet many are preventable.
Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTs) have some of the highest rates of diabetes in the world, with diabetes prevalence in many PICTs more than double the world average.
‘The 10 countries in the world with the highest overweight and obesity rates are in the Pacific, as are almost all the 10 countries with the highest prevalence of diabetes in the world, and these are major drivers of NCDs. The region is struggling to cope with the burden on individuals, families, communities, health systems and Pacific economies and development more broadly,’ said Dr Paula Vivili, Deputy Director at SPC’s Public Health Division.
‘Urgent action needs to be taken now. The good news is that there are proven, affordable and cost-effective strategies available.’ said Dr Vivili.
SPC, the World Bank, World Health Organisation and the Pacific Islands Forum have been working with the governments of Australia and New Zealand to develop a detailed NCD Roadmap Report on a multi-sectoral country and regional response to the NCD Crisis in the Pacific, for consideration at the joint Forum Economic and Pacific Health Ministers Meeting in July 2014.
‘Four key strategies include strengthening tobacco control, addressing and better regulating food and drink products linked to NCDs, improving efficiency by reallocating existing health resources to targeted primary and secondary prevention and treatment of heart disease and diabetes, and strengthening research and evidence for better planning,’ said Dr Vivili.
The NCD Roadmap Report identifies 32 other multi-sectoral activities that Pacific governments could choose to adopt in their response to NCDs. These involve interventions from a range of ministries including the prime ministers’ office as well as ministries of agriculture, education, health and trade.