Study of Tokelau imports from Samoa sets baseline for healthy policy

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Dr Jaap (“iapi”) Jasperse illustrating the average amount of imported sugar each Tokelauan consumes in a year.

Dr Jaap (“iapi”) Jasperse illustrating the average amount of imported sugar each Tokelauan consumes in a year.

A study of what Tokelauans imported from Samoa in 2014 has just been completed. It shows how much the village stores, of which there is effectively only one on each of the three atolls, have imported for on-sale within one year. The focus is on Food, Non-alcoholic and Alcoholic drinks and Cigarettes, plus the Solid waste this generates locally.

Dr. Jaap (“iapi”) Jasperse, Statistics Adviser at the Tokelau National Statistics Office in Apia has just returned from a consultation round with the Taupulega (village council of elders) of each of the atolls Fakaofo, Atafu and Nukunonu. The aim was to make the results of the study known so they can form the baseline for appropriate policy development.

“I have faithfully calculated and verified these import data so we know exactly what Tokelauans eat, drink, smoke and throw away,” Jasperse says. “It is now up to the Taupulega and Health and Environment policy makers to use this data, for the benefit of the atoll-dwellers in the New Zealand territory.

 “We can use international guidelines, for example from the World Health Organisation (W.H.O), to see if the current diet is healthy. Unfortunately the data show most preferred foods are high in saturated fat, salt, and sugar.

 “And this is of concern as those ingredients are known to contribute to the high prevalence of non-communicable diseases such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure in Tokelau.”

Tentative results from a recent study by W.H.O. indicate that 23 percent of adult Tokelauans is overweight, and 67 percent are in the obese category – leaving only 10 percent with a healthy body weight.

These percentages are probably comparable in urban Samoa where a similar diet seems to prevail, especially with so many take-away shops in Apia. There are no such restaurants in Tokelau.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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