A STRONG call for partnership has been echoed during the Youth Forum proceedings at the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in Apia, Samoa this week.
Director General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) Dr Colin Tukuitonga, said the Pacific has a greater challenge of more obese children than before which poses great health and development challenges.
“We have more obese children than ever before. Overweight and obese children are likely to stay obese into adulthood and are more likely to develop NCDs like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases at a younger age,” Dr Tukuitonga said.
He stressed that focus of governments, stakeholders and relevant authorities must be on prevention, particularly in supporting healthy lifestyles for children and youth.
Dr Tukuitonga stressed the importance of the regional coordinated effort – the Pacific Partnership for a Multi-sector Approach to Prevent and Control NCDs by strengthening the capacity and expertise to support response efforts in Pacific countries.
He added that expanding the response to increase the focus on prevention means addressing the risk factors that are often present in childhood, adolescence and youth and he urged the young audience to avoid sugary carbonated drinks and to work together to address smoking among their peers.
“Addressing NCDs and focusing on the youth population will result in a healthier, more productive society, which will in turn contribute opportunities for economic growth. With half the region’s population being under 25 years, this is imperative,”Dr Tukuitonga added.
He said the Pacific has outpaced the world in mortality from NCDs with 75% of all deaths annually are due to NCDs and as much as 60% of the health care budgets in some Pacific Island countries and territories are going towards expensive, overseas care.
He said because NCDs often result in premature death (before age 60), they contribute to poverty and lower workforce productivity, which in turn affects national development.
Around 450 young people from the Pacific, Caribbean and AIMS (Atlantic, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and South China Sea) regions have gathered to discuss the priorities that they will take forward into the coming week of meetings and events at the SIDS Conference.
Their focus will be on issues of health and non-communicable diseases (NCDs), social development, youth and disability.
By DANIEL NAMOSUAIA
in Apia, Samoa