Nutritionists develop action plan to promote healthy diet and lifestyles in the Pacific
A Nutrition Workshop, hosted by the Pacific Community (SPC), took place at late November in Nadi, Fiji. Nutritionists from 20 Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs), together with development partners and other stakeholders gathered to review the updated Pacific Guidelines for a Healthy Diet and Lifestyle and develop national ‘action plans’ for implementing these guidelines in PICTs. The action plans set out strategies for adapting the Pacific guidelines within national contexts, disseminating the guidelines to stakeholders, and communicating the guidelines to local communities.
The previous Pacific guidelines for healthy diet and lifestyle were developed by SPC in 2000 in close collaboration with Pacific nutrition experts. The guidelines have now been updated to be consistent with current scientific evidence, and new resources are being identified to support implementation of the guidelines. In addition to guidance on food, the Pacific guide also address other lifestyle aspects such as physical activity, smoking and alcohol.
SPC and development partners will now work with countries to implement these action plans and ensure the Pacific Guidelines for a Healthy Diet and Lifestyle are implemented at national level. During the meeting, participants also identified opportunities to strengthen nutrition networks in the region, and identified professional development and other support required to scale up national nutrition interventions.
Nutrition is a major health and development challenge in the Pacific. PICTs face a “double burden” of nutrition, with challenges in both malnutrition and obesity. Pacific countries have some of the highest rates of obesity in the world. Results from health surveys indicate an adult obesity rate of more than 60% of in American Samoa, Cook Islands, Niue, Wallis and Futuna and Tonga. In addition, only a small proportion of adults eat sufficient fruits and vegetables to maintain a healthy diet. In many PICTs, less than 20% of adults eat the recommended five servings per day of fruit and vegetables.
Deputy Director of SPC’s Public Health Division, Sunia Soakai, recognized the important role of nutritionists in addressing the non-communicable disease crisis in the Pacific. “Nutritionists play an important role in promoting healthy diet and lifestyles, for example by advocating to policy makers to invest more on nutrition; and by educating people about healthy food”, Soakai said. “We hope that through this workshop, Pacific nutritionists, health professionals and policy makers have the appropriate tools and resources to help Pacific people make healthy food and lifestyle choices”.
As the region’s principal scientific and technical organization, SPC’s Public Health Division provides technical support for PICTs to strengthen political leadership and multi-sectoral engagement on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) prevention and control; support NCD policy and legislation development, and build capacity to implement NCD activities and monitor progress. SPC is committed to working together with our member countries and territories, and our partners, to ensure a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach to promoting healthy lifestyles and turning the tide on NCDs in the Pacific.