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Turkey tails cost Samoa govt. $18m in health care bills

No less that ten Samoan patients with non-communicable diseases are taken to New Zealand every month to be operated on, at the cost of some $T150,000 a patient to the Samoan government. That is $T18 million every year.Non-communicable diseases include obesity, heart failure, diabetes and others, which are caused primarily by diets of imported fatty foods such as turkey tails that were banned in 2007.Other factors are smoking, drinking and salt, which can lead to obesity and loss of eyesight.These figures were provided yesterday by the Ministry of Health’s Consultant Specialist Physician on Public Health, Leausa Toleafoa Dr Take Naseri, during an interview with the Samoa Observer.He was asked for a comment following reports that the Samoan government has lifted the ban of turkey tails imported from the United States of America, under pressure from the World Trade Organisation (W.T.O.) (See editorial).Dr. Naseri says the cost of treating non-communicable diseases (NCD) is very expensive for local people, especially struggling families. He describes the growing health issues in Samoa as “a crisis.”Dr Naseri says that it costs about $NZ81,000 ($T150,999) for one person to have an operation in New Zealand.“Those are complicated cases related to non-communicable diseases which cannot be treated here,” he explains.“And for a kid who has heart disease or rheumatic fever, it costs around $NZ30,000 (T$58,000).Dr Naseri says: “It is a multi-system problem for our people because it affects their eyes, kidneys, heart, skin and can cause diabetes and heart problems.“We have people who want to live up to 70 but in Samoa’s case, they live up to 60 due to heart problems and poor lifestyle choices, such as eating a lot of imported food.”