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PM Tells: Poor Health Shame, Tragedy

Too many young people in the region including Fiji are slowly killing themselves because of unhealthy lifestyles, warns Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama. He said they “are robbing themselves of healthy
18 Apr 2015 13:36
PM Tells:  Poor Health Shame, Tragedy

Too many young people in the region including Fiji are slowly killing themselves because of unhealthy lifestyles, warns Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama.

He said they “are robbing themselves of healthy and happy futures, and robbing us of the human resources we need as nations to prosper.”

Mr Bainimarama made the remarks at the close of the 11th Pacific Health Ministers meeting at the Shangri-La’s Fijian Resort and Spa, Yanuca Island, yesterday

“It is a tragedy that while we often live in pristine surroundings, breathe some of the cleanest air in the world and also have ample means to eat well because we are surrounded by an ocean teeming with life, the health of many of our people is so deplorable,” he said.

“It ought to be a cause of regional shame that the Pacific now has – on a per-capita basis – the highest incidence of NCDs in the world.”

“I call on you all individually and collectively to keep hammering home this message to our young people across the region. They have so much to live for, especially in those countries like Fiji where they are now getting free education and the opportunity to have more fulfilling lives,” he said.

“Sadly, while we have made great strides in certain areas in recent years in delivering better health outcomes to our people, we are still falling way short of the mark on the issue of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs).

“We can preach to our people all we like about why they are suffering so grievously from preventable diseases such as heart disease, hypertension and diabetes. We can point to the extraordinary level of amputations in our hospitals directly caused by NCDs. But it all comes down ultimately – in so many instances – to an issue of personal responsibility.”

He said it pained him as a leader of one of the larger Pacific nations that far too many Fijians were failing to heed their pleas to adopt better lifestyles.

“And I know that all of you will share that pain and especially those countries where the diets and lifestyles of the people are even worse than ours,” he said.

“For our part, Fiji is doing everything we can to improve the health outcomes of our people by opening new hospitals, new healthcare centres and new clinics across our islands and especially in those rural and maritime areas that have been neglected over the years. In the 2015 Budget, we also introduced free medicine for any Fijian with a household income of less than $20,000 a year.

“We have medical personnel receiving education and training not only locally but as far afield as Cuba, India, Turkey, Malaysia and Thailand – to name just a few.

“We have also increased taxes on tobacco and alcohol – two factors that are driving the poor health outcomes of our people. And we’ve reduced the tax on imported fruit and vegetables to encourage more consumption of these foods.

“Yet for all that, we cannot regulate the diets of our people by making it illegal to eat badly. And that is why we must redouble our efforts through public education and awareness and especially starting with the very young.”

He said last month he had the great pleasure to introduce a major initiative that they hoped would encourage a lifetime of good eating on the part of ordinary Fijians.

“Every Fijian child in Year One of Primary School is getting a free allocation of milk and Weet-Bix everyday of the school year.

“I have specifically chosen to launch this programme personally in schools across Fiji to reinforce a crucial message: That these Year One students should use their milk and Weet-Bix and the protein and fibre that come from them to embark on a lifetime of eating properly. Choosing fruit instead of sweets.Choosing fresh fish instead of canned fish or meat. And choosing the fresh vegetables that grow in such abundance in our fertile island gardens but which so many people ignore for frozen foreign vegetables in our supermarkets.

“We are also using the launch of our Free Milk and Weet-Bix Initiative to underline the importance of exercise. And I am pointedly telling these young people: Don’t grow up to be like older Fijians who haven’t looked after themselves properly and are now paying the price.”

Feedback: waisean@fijisun.com.fj

 




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