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DOH joins NCD to tackle health problems

The Department of Health (DOH) in collaboration with the Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) Prevention Planning Coalition is at this time holding its Two Day ‘2012 Non-Communicable Disease Prevention Summit’ .

Beginning yesterday at the Governor H. Rex Lee Auditorium, there are in attendance government officials, faith based organizations and members of the community.

The Summit's purpose is to educate the community of the presence of NCDs and the impact NCDs have on our quality of life, to understand what they are and how they can be prevented.

It is also meant to provide input into the planning process to prevent NCDs.

The two-day event featured presentations structured around the theme "Health Across the Life-span-Planning for a Healthy Tomorrow".

To underscore the importance of physical activity, there will also be a Zumba Competition today as part of the two-day Summit. It will take place this morning at the ASG Samoan Guest House at the Suigaula o le Atuvasa Beach. There will also be a Wellness Fair today for the Summit guests and participants.


Non-Communicable Diseases, which are also referred to as "lifestyle diseases" relate to conditions that are non-infectious and include heart disease, stroke, cancer, asthma and diabetes.

Also known as Chronic Diseases, they are longlasting medical conditions. Most can be prevented by simple behavior changes such as increasing levels of physical activity, eating nutritiously and eliminating the use of tobacco products.

Keynote speaker yesterday was Section Head of Healthy Pacific Lifestyles for the  Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Dr. Viliami Puloka who noted that even though outside influences are a contributing factor in the high percentage of NCDs in the territory, ‘we’ still make the choice to eat what we eat.

He stated that NCDs is no longer just a health issue, but they are an economic and development issue. “There is a lot of nice tasting food coming in... that is filled with carbohydrates, sugar, salts, things we are eating too much of,” said Dr. Puloka. “There may be some truth in outside influences contributing to the NCDs here, but in the end you still choose to eat what you eat,” he said.

NCD Coalition Member and Diabetes Coalition Member, Representative Larry Sanitoa spoke to Samoa News on the subject. “This is a huge issue here in American Samoa. We have to come together to try and address [it],” he said, reiterating, “This is huge. Not only does this affect us financially, it affects our young people and it drains a lot of our resources, not only our government resources, but individual family resources.”

“Unless we address this problem, down the line it is going to be disastrous for American Samoa,” he said.


Some of the subjects spoken of in yesterday's Summit included a STEPS survey conducted here in American Samoa by the World Health Organization (WHO) with 2,188 households in ten different villages. The data at the time said that 47.3% of the population was diabetic (one of the highest percentages in the world), with 17.5% of the cases were adults ages 24-34 and  85% of the adults with diabetes had high blood sugar levels, but had not been previously diagnosed and were not on medication.

Also in 2004, 50.2% of admissions of children into LBJ Hospital were for diseases of the respiratory tract... the highest of all causes.The highest incidence of respiratory related admissions occurred with children 0-1 years of age.

Prostrate cancer accounted for 20% of all cancer diagnosis in adult men, followed by lung cancer and stomach cancer. Breast cancer accounted for 33% of all cancer diagnosis in adult women, followed by closely by colon cancer.

99% of the population were found to have one or more of the major risk factors for NCDs. 62% of adults ages 25-44 had three or more of the risk factors, placing them on in the high risk category.

In 2004, 93.5% of the population were overweight or obese (the highest rate in the world) — 92% of males and 94.4% of females were classified as overweight or obese.

The STEPS NCD Risk Factors Survey uses a survey methodology developed by WHO to help countries establish NCD surveillance systems.