THE Pacific continues to face unprecedented health challenges, says World Health Organization regional director Dr Shin Young-Soo.
Speaking at the opening of the Eleventh Pacific Health Ministers meeting on Yanuca Island near Sigatoka, Dr Young-Soo said the region’s triple burden of non-communicable diseases, communicable disease and climate change complications threatened to undermine advances in health and development.
“Pacific NCD rates are among the world’s highest,” he said.
“Despite notable successes, communicable disease rates also remain unacceptably high.
“Climate change further complicates the region’s health challenges.”
He said severe Tropical Cyclone Pam was the latest in a trend of escalating natural hazards.
“These events can wipe out a decade of development in a day.
“The storm washed away much of Vanuatu’s agriculture, which employs four of five people and crippled tourism which accounts for about a third of the gross domestic product.
“From disaster response and NCDs to infectious diseases and food safety, many of the Pacific’s most pressing health issues require action well beyond the health sector.
“Pacific Island countries currently devote up to 90 per cent of health expenditures on curative, rehabilitation and palliative care largely resulting from NCDs.
“And the burden will continue to rise as long as risk factors continue to increase.”
He said he hoped all the health leaders would reach a consensus on what regional countries would need to do in the next 20 years.
Fiji’s Health Minister Jone Usamate said at the end of the three-day meet, the regional leaders should be able to define a way forward together with the support of development partners and international agencies.