HEALTHY ISLANDS? INVOLVE COMMUNITIES, HEALTH DIRECTORS URGE

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (March 13, 2001 -Papua New Guinea Post-Courier/PINA Nius Online)---All sectors of the community should take an active role in implementing the Healthy Islands concept, Pacific Islands health directors suggested yesterday.

The healthy islands concept was initiated at the health ministers’ conference in Fiji in 1995, to promote healthy island nations of the Pacific for the 21st century.

The health directors, meeting in Madang, said that instead of allowing governments or health departments to implement the policy, the communities should be more involved.

Currently, the health departments take the responsibility of funding programs under the concept.

The healthy islands idea allows for implementation in various settings, which include schools, villages, markets and even transportation.

Papua New Guinea Health Secretary Dr. Puka Temu said both government departments and non-government organizations should be involved in implementing the concept.

He said since 1995, PNG has implemented the idea in 14 provinces.

Gordon’s market in Port Moresby and the Madang market have been declared healthy markets while some schools and villages also have been chosen to practice the Health Islands concept.

Dr. Temu said it empowered people with the right information so that they could make healthy choices.

"An example of this is that you can simply stop people from smoking in public places or you can tell them the right types of food to eat," he said.

Meanwhile, progress reports given at the meeting by health directors indicated that the concept was well implemented despite some difficulties.

In AMERICAN SAMOA, the short-term target of tobacco control further strengthened the detection of non-communicable disease and their risk factors.

FRENCH POLYNESIA targeted snack bar and food van operators with the same idea applied to other projects.

Other Pacific Islands nations were promoting healthy schools and the prevention of diseases.

Under the same concept, other projects include providing human resources for health, policies on traditional medicine and the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases.

Diabetes Concern

Pacific Islands governments need to be well informed about diabetes so that they can establish guidelines for rules on food that contribute to obesity and diabetes.

This concern was raised during discussions on controlling diabetes in the region.

Many directors indicated diabetes was a major problem that affected many of their people and there was still a great need for awareness campaigns to control its growth.

The meeting also heard from some speakers that despite efforts to introduce healthy lifestyles, especially diets, most Pacific islanders continue to live unhealthy lifestyles.

Dr. Shigeru Omi, the regional director for the World Health Organization’s Western Pacific region, also stressed that political leaders should be persuaded that diabetes had economic as well as human implications.

Dr. Omi said diabetes was prevalent throughout the Pacific where, in some countries, more than 40 percent of the people suffered from the disease.

"What we can say with some certainty is that the issue of diabetes is not going to go away. In fact, it is going to get much worse if we don’t do something about it," he said.

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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