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Unhealthy lifestyles was focus of Senate hearing last Friday

Senate President Tuaolo Manaia Fruean

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The increasing number of deaths in the territory — with 36 in January of those who have passed due to unhealthy lifestyles — was the focus of a Senate hearing last week.

Senate President Tuaolo Manaia Fruean raised these concerns with the Department of Health during the Friday morning hearing. 

Tuaolo queried the medical professionals whether there are any studies conducted by DoH on the status of healthcare in the territory, as it’s evident a majority of women diagnosed with cancer only find out they have cancer at the terminal stage and this is unacceptable. 

Those who attended the hearing Friday morning were Clinical Director Dr Elizabeth Lauvoa, Assistant Medical Director Dr Saipale Fuimaono, Director of Health, Motusa Tuileama Nua and Scott Enesi overseeing the DoH Epidemiology Division. 

Tuaolo said children are seen eating junk food as their breakfast and there should be programs to discourage this kind of bad eating habit, and to educate parents on the danger of junk food, It's no wonder children are obese in the territory, he said. 

The Health Director agrees with Tuaolo. Citing there is a need to have more cancer screenings, otherwise patients find out when it is too late and that the cancer has spread. 

Dr Lauvao said the DoH did a study back in 2004, with a second one in 2018 in regards to non-communicable diseases and cancer. 

The study revealed that some people only found out then that they had high blood pressure and diabetes, others refused to accept the reality that they are sick and remain in denial, they won’t take their prescribed medication. 

Even for cancer screenings, not many people consider this a priority, explained Dr Lauvao.

She said the study led to preparation of strategic planning programs currently being rolled out. 

According to Dr Lauvao, studies are conducted every five years and this year another health study is due. 

Another issue cited by the Senate President is the food available on the island. He questioned why the DoH does not appeal to the governor to stop the import of unhealthy fatty meat, such as turkey tails. 

Dr Lauvao pointed out that the last study uncovered that people are not eating healthy or balanced diets and have shifted from consuming fresh produce or vegetables to eating meat. 

Another bad habit that is a factor for NCD is smoking and they are proposing another increase in taxes for cigarettes to deter people from smoking. This measure will be submitted for Senators consideration and endorsement. 

Senator Malaepule Fuena Moliga said the lifestyle changes with time, where the children nowadays refuse to eat papaya and coconut, similar to the elderly population if they are given just banana and koko samoa, they get upset, so there is a need to delve into more awareness programs.

During family functions the food being served always includes pork, beef. There is a need to change the mindset of our people through awareness over balanced dieting. 

He further cited the economical impact if the government moves to ban soft drinks, tax revenues would drop. 

More on this hearing in later issues.