American Samoa Governor Forms Obesity Task Force

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Lolo seeks strategies to reverse trend of high rates of obesity, diabetes

By Joyetter Feagaimaalii-Luamanu

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Jan. 11, 2014) – Due to the "unfortunate" distinction of having the highest rate of obesity and diabetes, Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga has established an Obesity Task Force to take action to mitigate this debilitating health trend. In a letter sent out to departments and agencies naming the nine-member task force, Lolo said this issue was emphasized in a recent presentation given by Dr Salei’a Fa’amuli to government leaders.

"This is an issue we can no longer ignore given its pervasive and devastating impact, not only on the quality of lives for our people, but also on the fiscal health of the American Samoa Government."

Lolo noted that the task force shall prepare for his review a Territorial Strategy aimed at reducing the incidence of obesity in the territory, and this strategy should include recommendations for the declaration of territorial policies to forge the implementation of the recommended strategy.

"The Task Force is given 60 days in which to complete its mandated charge."

Lolo also pointed out that he’s appointing Dr Fa’amuli as the Ex-Officio member of the task force to ensure that her wealth of knowledge addressing this issue of obesity is tapped, along with accessing her expertise on existing federal programs, and the inherent national strategies to curb the growth of this "national nemesis."

Doctors and researchers have found that obesity and diabetes are connected. Persons who are obese are at high risk for developing Type 2 diabetes particularly if a close family member is affected with diabetes. Therefore, it becomes very important to maintain a healthy body weight throughout your life in order to protect yourself from developing a chronic disease like diabetes.

Last year November, at the Two Samoa’s Health Summit, Chief Medical Officer for the Health Department, Tamasoali’i Dr. Joseph Tufa stated in a presentation that LBJ Hospital spends $2.6 million, on a yearly basis for the treatment of diabetes.

Tamasoali’I presented some statistics on diabetes in American Samoa: 

In 1980 1-in -7 people were obese, 3000 had diabetes

In 2013 1-in- 3 are obese, with 8000 known diabetics and 6000 estimated undiagnosed.

There are also somewhere around 10,000 pre-diabetics. This is about 24,000 with diabetes or pre-diabetes— which is more than 1/3 of our population.

He also said that in 2011 there were 151 deaths in the territory, of which 85 were due to diabetes and its complications. In 2012, with 138 deaths, 72 were due to diabetes and its complications.

He stated that primary prevention means limiting the occurrence of a health problem, generally by preventing exposure to known risk factors, one risk factor being obesity.

Members of the newly formed diabetes task force include DOE Director Vaitinasa Dr. Salu Hunkin Finau; DOH Director Motusa Tuileama Nua; Secretary of Samoan Affairs Satele Galu Teutusi Satele; Rev Father Sefo Timu; ASCC’s Land Grant Director Tapa’au Dr. Dan Aga; Director of Agriculture Lealao Melila Purcell; Governor’s Office Senior Policy Advisor Dr. Oreta Crichton; and Miss American Samoa Eleitino Tuiasosopo.

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