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SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (March 27, 2001 - Marianas Variety/PINA Nius Online)---With non-communicable diseases like diabetes, cholera and dengue growing risks, Pacific Islands Health Association officials urged local health chiefs to invest in preventive public health programs.

During their meeting on Guam, health officials said preventive programs are key to minimizing and eliminating non-communicable diseases.

The association's president and Northern Marianas Health Secretary Joseph Kevin Villagomez said: "Investment in public health programs today will translate to a more healthy and educated community tomorrow. It leads to a more productive community.

"The shift in thinking from curative to preventive health in achieving long-term positive changes needs to be translated to shifting funding also to more preventive, public health programs."

Villagomez said the burden of uncontrolled or untreated diabetes, for example, is translating into an alarming number of people suffering from blindness and amputations, and an increase in patients requiring dialysis.

He said these diseases tax every health system and they may soon be unable to cope.

Said Villagomez: "We need to continue to figure out how best to get our preventive programs out into the homes of our residents so that that will make positive and long-lasting effects in their life styles.

"A large majority of non-communicable diseases have direct linkage to lifestyle. We can easily identify them but not so easily change them to prevent chronic disease."

The cholera outbreaks in Pohnpei and the Marshall Islands, as well as the dengue fever outbreak in Palau serve as reminders that the region needs to be on guard, said Villagomez.

He also called on health leaders to work closely with local government officials to address health concerns.

Palau Vice President Sandra Sumang Pierantozzi, who is also the Minister of Health, has become the newest member of the association’s board of directors.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: 

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