Engaging the whole country key to battling NCDs
The Pacific Islands Ministers of Health, Yanuca Island Declaration on Healthy Islands 1995 would be the answer to the two Samoa’s Non Communicable Disease, (NCD) Emergency crisis said Samoa’s Minister of Health, Tuitama Dr Leao Talalelei Tuiama, during his speech at the third annual Bilateral Two Day summit for the two Samoa’s held at Gov. H. Rex Lee Auditorium, yesterday.
The summit, which opened yesterday, is hosted by the local Department of Health in conjunction with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, World Health Organization and the Australian Government with more than 30 delegates from our neighboring islands, Samoa and Fiji.
Tuitama explained that “Healthy Islands” is the premise of a new public health philosophy that was introduced at the Ottawa Charter on Health promotion, which emanated from the gaps in the 1978 Alma Ata Declaration on primary health care.
“Healthy Islands builds on all that is good in PHC and extends beyond the typical health professional duties to engage a whole country, the whole of government and the whole of society,” said Tuitama.
NCDs (sometimes referred to as “lifestyle diseases” because they are brought about by the way you eat, exercise, smoke, etc.) include heart diseases, hypertension and stroke, diabetes, cancer and chronic respiratory diseases and they are the leading cause of early death of 80 percent of people in the Pacific on a yearly basis.
The event began with an invocation by Reverend Siaosi Mageo, while Tapa’au Dr. Dan Aga and Vaito’a Hans Langkilde alternated as the Master of Ceremony.
Tuitama announced that the bilateral agreement was submitted and endorsed by the Samoa Government Cabinet two weeks after the first Bilateral Summit which paved the way for many initiatives which they now coordinate and are spearheading from the health sector.
Tuitama said Samoa officially launched the start of its national plan for implementation of Healthy Islands in 1996, and since then the vision has been fully incorporated into their government’s strategy for the development of Samoa, Health Sector plans and institutional level initiatives including communities.
Tuitama gave examples such as the Ministry of Women community and social development champions — the Aiga ma Nu’u Manuia (families and villages) outreach program, which concentrates on family level sanitation, vegetable gardening for nutrition, physical activities, smoke free homes and health for families in general.
Aiga ma Nu’u Manuia is also used to build community resilience to disasters and climate change risk management with special focus on action led by communities themselves to reduce risk and increase preparedness so that they may better respond to disaster and recover quickly, he said.
Tuitama added that village councils also engage in leading village policy decisions on reduction of alcohol use and smoke free villages — which admittedly would be a long shot, but it’s a start.
He spoke of their efforts to incorporate health issues into church agendas as well as having the Ministry of Education, Sports and culture spearhead the health promotion in school settings.
Tuitama added the the Samoa Nurses Association and Samoa Medical Association have advocated for their members and organizations, sending smoke-free environment and less alcohol consumption messages, and whether it worked for most is admittedly a big question.
He noted their latest milestone is the endorsement and establishment of the National Healthy Islands Committee, which is chaired by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, to strengthen Samoa’s continuing work to revitalize Healthy Islands.
“This was a bonus, and it is a demonstration of the highest political support,” Dr. Tuitama said, adding that the head of state His Highness Tuiatua Tupua Tamasese Efi is always health conscious and he is the health model for walking as a regular physical activity.
Tuitama further stated that there is no amount of money for health services — and even with the latest technology in medicine — that can care for the increasing number of Samoans being diagnosed with NCDs, let alone the complications.
“Already we witness the growing numbers of dialysis patients,” he said. “The increase in Samoan people needing overseas treatment is extremely expensive for a small number of the total population who access it.”
“Money needed to operate our hospitals accelerates every year and this will continue. We will not ignore those realities and associated responsibilities,” he said.
Before concluding, Tuitama who spoke at United Nations General Assembly, Political Declaration on NCD Prevention and Control last year quoted Article 36 of the UN Political Declaration.
“Recognize that effective NCD prevention and control require leadership and multi-sectoral approaches for health at the government level, including, as appropriate, health in all policies and whole of government approaches across such sectors as health. education, energy, agriculture, sports, transport, communication, urban planning, environment, labor, employment, industry and trade, finance, and social and economic development”.
Tuitama said this is the global declaration of the healthy islands vision.
“Health across the life span as a framework for discussion because it focuses our attention on the whole population, rather than any one particular segment” is this year’s summit theme, said Acting Director of Public Health, Seiuli Elisapeta Ponousuia.
In her opening remarks, Ponousuia said this two-day summit will promulgate the collective effort and commitment to the task of combating the most significant health issue faced by the two Samoas.
“I am proud that in the three years since we declared our commitment to collaborate to find effective solutions to solve this chronic health challenge that we all know affects every aspects of life, our resolve remains solid and our efforts remain focused and continually energized.”
She added that the 2011 passage of the bilateral resolution on NCDs with Samoa opened the door for ongoing partnership and dialogue about NCD prevention.
Ponousuia said the joint involvement in the passing of the “Declaration of NCD Epidemic in the Pacific” has placed NCDs at the highest priority level on the regional health agenda, which they are hoping to result in additional resources available to the both Samoas for the fight.
“My aim is to continue our litany of making our people take heed of the growing danger that robs people of their full capacity to maximize enjoyment of their lives” she said.
Acting Governor Fepulea’i Arthur Ripley was scheduled to give special remarks, however he did not attend the event, given other obligations.
More about the health summit in tomorrow’s edition.