The Pacific Island nations are every vacationer’s dream. With its white sand beaches, beautiful waters and lush vegetation, it’s a place many long to escape to for serenity.
However, apart from its scenic beauty, Oceania also stand outs for one other reason which is definitely not as flattering: the region has one of the world’s highest rates of obesity, owing to a life based on imported food, little exercise and inadequate access to health care.
In order to deal with the nations’ obesity epidemic, one of the leaders of the Pacific Islands recently came up with an engaging plan to encourage his counterparts to opt for a healthy lifestyle.
The prime minister of Tonga, Akilisi Pohiva, has challenged fellow leaders to take part in a year-long weight-loss competition to set an example for their national communities.
“We should all get together for a weight loss competition for an entire year, so when we meet the following year we will weigh in again and see who has lost the most,” said Pohiva of his proposal, which he plans to put forward at the Pacific Island Forum in Nauru next month.
“It is not about who loses the most kilos but in order to shake off the weight, you must eat light and having that healthy mentality will go a long way,” he added.
Pohiva’s comments came after a group of experts raised concerns about a disturbing surge in childhood obesity.
“The non communicable disease [rates] and child obesity has everything to do with our eating habits and our lifestyle and it is complex issue when it comes to our Pacific people,” the prime minister said.
“With Pacific Island leaders, we meet and talk and talk about this issue, yet initiatives on this issue [are] not making an impact, it doesn’t seem to work. Once the leaders are adapting to that mindset they would be determined to get their people on the same aspect and go from there,” Pohiva told the Samoa Observer.
According to the World Health Organization’s report, more than 50 percent – and in some, up to 90 percent – of the population is overweight in at least 10 Pacific countries.
In fact, in 2016, according to the CIA World Factbook, all 10 of the world’s most obese countries - by the adult prevalence rate – were Pacific island nations.
The issue has largely been blamed on the residents opting for fatty and processed foods instead of traditional diet of fish and vegetables.
"[It] has everything to do with our eating habits and our lifestyle and it is complex issue when it comes to our Pacific people," Pohiva told the newspaper.
Moreover, obesity also increases the risk of an individual incurring other non-communicable diseases– which according to the director general of the Pacific Community organization, have become an increasing phenomenon in the Pacific.
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