Pacific nations join forces in sharing knowledge on the healthy fight against climate change

[27 November – Pacific islands] Community members and experts are being quizzed on how climate change is adding to the Pacific’s increasing rate of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

The knowledge-sharing forum of the Pacific Solution Exchange (PSE) is making this deadly issue its number-one discussion across all Pacific islands. Prompting the Pacific-wide discussion is Saula Volavola, World Health Organisation (WHO) Health Promotion/Communication Assistant.

“In the Pacific region, NCDs are the leading cause of death, accounting for 75%, with a large proportion of those being premature. The main risk factors for NCDs are: tobacco smoking, physical inactivity, alcohol misuse and unhealthy diet (low consumption of fruits and vegetables, high sugar and fat),” Mr Volavola said.

“These risks are a growing concern in the Pacific given, for example, the rate of overweight or obese people ranges from 47% in Fiji to 93.5% in American Samoa,” he said.

These risks are increasing as a result of climate change and development impacts. For example, modern lifestyles typically result in less physical activity at home and at work; while climate change is already affecting the food we eat, the water we drink and the environments in which we live.

In response, WHO is operating a number of initiatives such as increasing taxation on cigarettes under the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), lobbying with manufacturers to reduce salt in processed foods, plus working with schools, workplaces, villages and health facilities to make them settings for healthy living. Many other organisations and government bodies also have initiatives underway.

“Despite these efforts, we are concerned the rate of NCDs in the Pacific continues to rise, with the impacts of climate change and development to further exacerbate this issue,” he said.

Mr Volavola hopes responses to this Pacific Solution Exchange (PSE) knowledge-sharing forum will help all of those studying or working in climate change or health fields to better understand and combat this issue.

“Already the free knowledge-sharing service of PSE is generating an exciting discussion among stakeholders involved in health and climate change in many Pacific nations,” Mr Volvavola said.

“We’ve heard from researchers, health practitioners and community members from Apia, Levuka and Kadavu – a wide range of people concerned about how issues such as sea level rise and increased flooding is impacting the health of our people, especially with NCDs such as obesity and diabetes.

“They are all keen to share their experience or perception of the ways in which climate change may be affecting NCDs in Pacific communities,” he said.

The knowledge sharing exchange about NCDs and climate change only runs for about a week and finishes at the end of December, with people invited to join Pacific Solution Exchange, if they want to become part of the conversation. Joining is free: www.solutionexchange-un.net/pacific

The Pacific Solution Exchange is an email-based knowledge sharing service that enables people across the Pacific to ask each other Queries and share answers, insights, experiences and lessons learned to help each other in their climate change and disaster risk work across the Pacific. It has over 1300 members ranging from experts, practitioners, community members, students and concerned elders and community members in remote communities.