Dr Colin Tukuitonga, Director-General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), is a member of a recently convened World Health Organization (WHO) Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity.
According to WHO, 40 million children worldwide under the age of 5 were overweight or obese in 2012; this number could rise to 70 million in 2025 if the current trends continue.
In the 16 Pacific countries for which data are available, more than 50% of the adult population are overweight or obese. Moreover, the Pacific is raising the most obese generation in its history, with almost 25% of boys and 20% of girls aged between 13 and 15 obese.
The global School-based Student Health Survey found that in one Pacific Island nation in 2010, 62% of boys, and 58% of girls between the ages of 13 and 15 were overweight or obese. The percentage of obesity for the same group was 25% for boys and 19% for girls.
In order to tackle this issue, WHO has convened a high-level commission, tasked to explore all approaches that might be the most effective in different contexts.
The commission is co-chaired by Sir Peter David Gluckman, Chief Science Advisor to the Prime Minister of New Zealand, and Dr Sania Nishtar, founder and President of Heartfile, Pakistan. It met for the first time on 17–18 July in Geneva.
For Dr Tukuitonga, this is an important global development that will provide the guidance to countries on effective measures to prevent childhood obesity. ‘I am honoured and delighted to contribute to this important work,’ he said.
Obesity is a key personal and national health and development issue in the Pacific, and a major focus of the non-communicable disease (NCD) roadmap presented at the most recent regional meeting of health ministers in early July in Solomon Islands, which was co-organised by SPC and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS).
The burden of NCDs, including obesity, in the region is high, and solutions to the issue must involve actions across all sectors of society, including the areas of economic development, education, sport, agriculture, fisheries – and not just actions in the health sector.
(SPC), Noumea, New Caledonia