Editorial comment – Fighting NCDs

Many families are now getting into backyard gardening. Picture: FILE/RAMA

The revelation that Fiji recorded 5700 deaths in 2020 that were due to complications related to non-communicable diseases is shocking.

In fact it is scary!

The Ministry of Health and Medical Services has also stated that Pacific Island Countries suffered some of the highest rates of NCDs, like hypertension, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, in the world.

Head of Wellness Fiji Dr Devina Nand said the overconsumption of sugar, salt, oil, and processed foods were all major contributors to the prevalence of NCDs in Fiji – a crisis that she said was claiming lives and creating serious suffering for many Fijians.

It was a shame, she said, that unhealthy options fill consumer shopping baskets when Fiji has so many fresh fruits and vegetables and other nutritious food options.

Changing consumer habits, she noted, was a slow-going but essential effort that helps to build a more nutrition secure Fiji.

She highlighted programs like the ‘Grow Your Own Food”, a home gardening initiative, by the Ministry of Agriculture in partnership with the MHMS, the “Grow Your Own Food” booklet, and the My Kana app (available on Play Store) as excellent ways forward.

There was hope, she said, that over the long term, we would see unhealthy options, like sugar, fall to more responsible levels of consumption.

Diabetes Fiji Inc. project manager Viliame Qio is quoted saying diabetes was among the most devastating of NCDs and high sugar intake made the disease more prevalent and severe among people across gender and ethnicity.

In 2013 to 2018, he noted, outpatient data recorded more than 176,000 patients treated for diabetes in Fiji.

“That is a crisis. We welcome any measures that address the contributing factors to diabetes and will continue to advocate fiercely for healthier, more nutrition-secure consumption from Fijians,” he said.

The data we have are quite shocking to say the least.

In saying that though, we are reminded about our role.

We are reminded that we are able to fight NCDs with lifestyle changes.

Understandably there may be issues that we will have to overcome to effectively fight NCDs.

However, our challenge is to make those lifestyle changes now.

That means watching what we eat.

It means making tough decisions to keep away some food, and embrace more nutritious meals.

It means considering exercising and physical fitness activities.

It means making decisions daily that will help us keep healthy.

That isn’t going to be easy for some of us.

It must be done though if we are to progress forward positively as a nation.

If the cost factor is going to be a major consideration, then we will look to the powers that be to assist us.

For those who are affected by NCDs, we will look up to experts to create a level of awareness about contingencies, and action to take to allow them to continue to live well.

After all, we have a challenge to make things happen.

We must take that first step and help ourselves.

We must weigh options and consider the impact on our lives anyway!

There must be a concerted effort by everyone though, from us as individuals to the powers that be!

This calls for a united front!

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