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Pacific leaders consider new laws, sugar taxes and the impact of laziness in fight against non-communicable disease

The need for a new approach to address the Pacific region's ongoing struggle with non-communicable diseases (N.C.D.) was at the forefront of the second day of the 13th Pacific Health Ministers Meeting in Tahiti yesterday. 

A paper on the proposal for Pacific regional legislative framework on N.C.D.s was presented by Dr Paula Vivili, the Director for the Public Health Division, at the Pacific Community (S.P.C.).

Dr. Paula said the framework place emphasis on the importance of legislative issues and laws in the efforts to address N.C.D.s. 

“At the moment some countries are doing well in this area, other countries not so well," he said. 

"So the idea behind the framework is to look at all the necessary evidence, put all the legislation in one place so than it becomes a little bit easier for the countries to than access this, to help themselves in their own work.

“Of course this does not stop countries at the moment from helping themselves or getting help from S.P.C., W.H.O. and other partners to help them develop their own national frameworks.”

He said the legislative framework looks at the power of collaboration and working collectively to agree and implement the framework. 

“One of the notions that we would be interested to explore in the future is that the countries agree to endorse the framework as a convention where, potentially the countries commit to actually implementing the legislation.

“And we will be designing it so that they focus on the easier action first and as they progress with the strength of their work they can progress to more difficult legislation.” 

The World Health Organisation has called for a 15 per cent reduction in physical inactivity among adults and adolescents by 2030, which a representative declared a key component in any plan to tackle non-communicable disease. 

Greater monitoring of an response to childhood obesity was also identified as a priority in the Pacific nations' plans to end childhood obesity. 

S.P.C. Team Leader N.C.D.s, Dr. Si Thu Win Tin said non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases are a huge problem in the Pacific Island countries and territories. 

He said there needs to be done in the fight against N.C.D.s and the Pacific Islands N.C.D. Roadmap Implementation is an area in which the islands have progressed on a lot. 

“I am so glad that all the ministers are very committed to take national action to scale up N.C.D. prevention and control at the national level.” 

Delegates were also asked to consider the possibility of a review of the taxation on alcohol, tobacco and fatty and sugary foods given their role in promoting unhealthy lifestyles. 

A report in the Lancet Oncology this week found that Samoa does not have a non-communicable diseases plan.

Cheap, processed foods rich in carbohydrates, free sugars, trans fats and salt are contributing to the non-communicable disease epidemic and obesity related cancers, and the the National Kidney Foundation of Samoa estimates 11.5 per cent of adults have chronic kidney disease.    

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