TUITAMA: SAMOANS WERE HEALTHY AND FIT BEFORE LIFESTYLE CHANGES
Although some have claimed that traditionally Samoans were “fat”, Samoa’s Minister of Health, Tuitama Dr Leao Talalelei Tuitama said Samoans were tall, fine looking brown people with good physiques. This announcement was made at the 4th Annual Bilateral Summit for Samoa and American Samoa that kicked off yesterday (Thursday, Samoa time).
Tuitama who’s also Samoa’s Acting Prime Minister said, “Our coming together today is also timely given the many challenging health problems that we face as Samoan people, more specifically for this meeting, the associated woes of lifestyle diseases,” said Tuitama.
More than 50 delegates from American Samoa are attending this summit that includes Health Officials, Senators and Representatives, LBJ Hospital board members and media representatives. An Ava ceremony was conducted when the delegation arrived in Samoa on Wednesday (Samoa Time) by Samoa’s Ministry of Health.
The theme for this year’s summit is “Exploring Effective Solutions of NCD (non-communicable disease) Challenges.” The bilateral health meetings between the two Samoas have been held since 2010.
Tuitama pointed out that these meetings are an extension at the health sector level of both governments’ bilateral agreement to collaborate, share knowledge on specific areas of expertise and work towards the development of the Samoan people.
He said during the summit last year in American Samoa there was an agreement to lift commitments to another level— so that there is an accounting of any actions that evolve out of the meeting of Samoan minds. “We all agreed that the meeting’s outcomes have to be translated to action, we also resolved to develop a joint plan of action to be implemented by all of us between last year September and now —and that would be the basis of our discussion in this 2013 forum.”
Tuitama pointed out that Samoa and American Samoa share many common characteristics that provide unique opportunities that can be capitalized on to benefit the health of the people.
“It is our shared characteristics like geographic proximity, the same ethnic group speaking the same language, socio cultural and genetic commonalities that bond our two countries and I believe those are areas which we can exploit for health development.”
He said our traditional form and physical attributes are well documented.
“We were a tall, fine looking brown people with good physique and we were not historically know for indulgence in anything, except challenge.”
“But what now— we are known as some of the most obese people in the world and we have accelerated our vulnerability status when defining good health; there is no one to blame but ourselves for embracing the lifestyle changes that have had negative consequences on our lives,” said Tuitama.
He noted that the unhealthy lifestyles we adopted that have put us at high risk include smoking, alcohol consumption, large food portions, which are high in fat, salt and sugar, and our generation’s sedentary lifestyle. These are now causing suffering, untimely and preventable deaths and chronic illness that create a burden for everyone, he said.
Tuitama gave the assembly his thoughts on the health maladies for Samoa and American Samoa saying when the United Nations Assembly in September 2011 endorsed the UN political declaration on the prevention and control of NCDs, several key themes were given to the member states to work on. These included a whole-of-government approach, ensuring committed political will, use of multi-sectoral collaboration, creation of alliances and partnerships within countries, regions and the world and also identification and use of cost effective interventions.
The World Health Organization has been instrumental in helping understand global targets for national action, he noted, and the WHO Assembly last year resolved for all countries including both Samoas, to work towards a reduction by 25% of NCD-related mortality by the year 2025.
Tuitama also pointed out that he attended the Small Island Development States Forum in Barbados, which will be held in Samoa in September 2014. Tuitama said that while attending that meeting, he advocated the inclusion of NCDs in the development agenda, which was granted. He further stated that Samoa’s cabinet has endorsed a proposal that has the Minister of Health conducting side events at this international meeting focusing on health and associated vulnerabilities unique to Small Island Developing States.
“I am very conscious of our need to open our economic and trade systems to provide economic opportunities for the people of Samoa, so we do not get left behind in world development and growth. However I am very aware that the health of our populations must benefit from these developments and thus we must learn history lessons from other countries, where, in the name of development and economic growth, the health of people suffered or where the people for whom development is attempted in fact become the health victims of these efforts.”
“We need to identify and put in place protective measures to assure the economic and social development is fostered, in a manner and in line with all our efforts to further improve the healthy outcomes of our people, so we, and the generations after us, can enjoy long and healthy lives,” said Tuitama.
Samoa News will continue to provide updates on the Health Summit in Samoa this week.