Local Foods

July 2019

A Potential Solution to Non-Communicable Diseases

The symposium brought together 120 participants from various communities in Fiji

Every six seconds a person dies from Diabetes.

A study undertaken by Fiji’s Ministry of Health revealed that it is the leading cause of death worldwide, claiming up to 5.1 million lives in 2013. The study also identified that 1 in every 3 Fijians is being diagnosed with diabetes at approximately 30% of the population.

Prominent doctors in Fiji who trialed and tested solutions to the NCD crisis through the use of local foods, today met at the headquarters of Foundation for Rural Integrated Enterprises & Development (FRIEND) in Tuvu, Lautoka (Fiji) for a robust discussion.

‘We are concerned that Fiji is leading the global death toll due to diabetes and shocked at National Nutrition statistics that almost half of Fiji’s population is suffering from Anemia.’

Founder & Director of FRIEND, Sashi Kiran says there is an urgent need to discuss solutions to the current crisis and that there are experts who have proven results that needs to be shared widely.

In his key note address, Dr. Isimeli Tukana (National Advisor on Non-Communicable Diseases, Ministry of Health & Medical Services) said there was an increasing trend of single unwanted pregnancies that were also unplanned in where 30% of the women are anemic.

‘Inside of pregnancy we find they have developed diabetes as well as high blood pressure and heart problems. This gives the Ministry a lot of pressure because we are worried about the survival of both mother and child in the 9 month duration of pregnancy. That’s our big worry now, trying to sort anemia.’

He added that eating patterns in Fiji had changed over time from land based organic meals to processed meals which he says has heavily contributed towards the rise of NCD’s in Fiji.

‘The solution here is based on lifestyle changes and if people can’t make the effort to change their lifestyle then they can expect that things will remain unchanged, which no medicine can ever cure.’

Dr. Isimeli Tukana also called on the government to have regulations in place for processed foods.

In his findings on Community Health & Food Systems, Mr. Lau Viliamu Iese (Research Fellow, University of the South Pacific) said initial assumptions proved to be incorrect when research begun.

‘When we first started one of the assumptions was that the more educated one was, the more money one got and so the thinking was, the better food one got. The other assumption was, if one has a low economic status, one was mostly food insecure, that’s the general assumption the world over when it comes to food security because it affects access to food, the availability of food and the nutritional content of what one buys – that is the assumption.’

He added that the issue in the Pacific was not the lack of food but the abundance of it, ‘Our culture of hospitality needs to change. Growing up in Samoa, the best is served to our guests and it’s something that needs to change. Because if you’re serving the best to your guests, what is your family eating?’

Expressing similar views, Dr. Samuela Korovou said the answer to resolving NCD’s in Fiji was through the use of local foods.

‘It’s something we are addressing at the University of Fiji under the Community Medicine Department. Today’s symposium is more or less addressing exactly what needs to be seen on household plates across Fiji which we believe will change if not improve lifestyles for the better. I fully support the views of Dr. Tukana in that proper nourishment all begins from conception in the womb and up until 18 years of age.’

The symposium ended with a move to nationalize the findings and concerns raised by the panel of health experts.

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