Vaovasa warns of diabetes “tsunami”

New Zealand’s Deputy Prime Minister,  Vaovasamanaia Winston Peters, has described the issue of obesity in the region as a “tsunami”.

Speaking on the sidelines of the recently concluded Forum Foreign Ministers conference in Samoa, Vaovasa said education and diet have to change in order to defend the Pacific against this growing problem.

“Like in my country, this is a health tsunami that is on its way, and is already here in fact.” 

“It’s just that the waves will get bigger and bigger unless we do something about it,” he said.

Vaovasa told Samoa Observer the working lives of most Samoans do not match the type of food commonly eaten here.

“Clearly the nature of the work of the island people has changed dramatically from the old days, when people had long, hard manual jobs and the food they were eating was high energy producing,” he said.

Today’s more sedentary, seated jobs don’t require high energy foods, which instead become fattening. In New Zealand, most population groups are affected by obesity, he said while adding that they are not looking at the issue with a prejudice.   

“We have it in the Pacific population in New Zealand, and in the Maori and in the European populations in New Zealand.”

According to a 35-year study published in 2016, over half of Samoan men and women are considered obese, and the percentages are likely to increase.

During the period of the study, 1978-2013, obesity prevalence increased from 27.7 per cent to 53.1 per cent in men and from 44.4 per cent to 76.7 per cent in women. By 2020, the study projects obesity rates will climb to 59 per cent in men and 81 per cent in women. 

The study was conducted jointly by the University of New South Wales, Samoa Ministry of Health, Brown University and the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute.

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