Non-communicable diseases still a challenge
A significant health challenge in Samoa is the rising incidence of morbidity and mortality from noncommunicable diseases which continue to have an impact on health resources.
This was revealed in Samoa's second Voluntary National Review (V.N.R.) on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. A report was issued by the Government of Samoa in June 2020.
In the report, the Ministry of Health’s National Non-communicable Disease Control Policy for 2018 – 2023 states that N.C.D.s, also known as chronic diseases, are enduring and are the result of a combination of genetic, physiological, environmental and behavioural factors.
Furthermore, it states that the main types of N.C.D.s are cardiovascular diseases (like heart attacks and stroke), cancers, chronic respiratory diseases (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma) and diabetes.
In addition, N.C.D.s disproportionately affect people in low and middle income countries where more than three quarters of global N.C.D. deaths – 31 million – occur.
According to Samoa’s second V.N.R. report, Samoa has one of the highest death rates of 81 per cent and illnesses rates from N.C.D.s (cardiovascular – 34 per cent, cancers 15 per cent, chronic respiratory diseases – 5 per cent, diabetes – 9 per cent, other N.C.D. 18 per cent) in the world.
“An estimated 89.1 per cent of Samoans are overweight and 63.1 per cent are obese,” read the report.
It also added that between 2003 and 2013, there was increased prevalence of Diabetes (3.3 per cent), hypertension (7.7 per cent), overweight (3.5 per cent) and 7.1 per cent increase in obesity. N.C.D.s are responsible for seven of the 10 premature deaths in Samoa.
“A recent Care for Hypertension and other Chronic Conditions in Samoa Survey in 2018 found that the prevalence rates of N.C.D.s remain high with nine out of 10 survey participants found to be overweight or obese.
“A key factor in the high rates of N.C.D. is poor and over-nutrition, unhealthy diets, and sedentary lifestyles. Good health and well-being are critical for improved quality of life.
“The epidemic of obesity, diabetes, and hypertension is resulting in a higher number of premature deaths and illnesses from N.C.D. impacting the productive population, causing more disabilities, and lowering quality of life. Levels of malnutrition, stunting and wasting while low, will still impact children’s learning capacity.”
In terms of addressing the high rates of deaths and illnesses from N.C.D.s, the Package of Essential N.C.D. Interventions (P.E.N.) Fa’a Samoa was introduced in Samoan villages in 2016 to improve early detection, improve referral and increase public awareness.
The report further stated that the Care for Hypertension and other Chronic Conditions in Samoa Survey, 2018 found that communities engaging in the P.E.N. Fa’a Samoa programme are more likely to be screened and receive treatment.
“This highlights the critical role communities, in particular women’s committees, can play as they did decades before, in the promotion and delivery of critical health interventions.
“It is also an important way of ensuring that we leave no one behind.”
“While overall there are some positive maternal and child health outcomes and encouraging results in addressing the risks of N.C.D.s, the challenges of managing the recent Measles outbreak in Samoa highlighted some gaps in health administration and service delivery.”