NEWS

FOCUS: Pacific Shame As Fat Now Fatter

A leading Pacific doctor has backed calls for islander countries to consider a fat tax on junk food to tackle the ticking time bomb of obesity in the region. The World
15 Jul 2015 09:01
FOCUS: Pacific Shame As Fat Now Fatter

A leading Pacific doctor has backed calls for islander countries to consider a fat tax on junk food to tackle the ticking time bomb of obesity in the region.

The World Health Organisation ranks eight Pacific island countries among the world’s top 10 most obese nations.

Unless drastic measures are introduced the region is headed for disaster, says the director general of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Colin Tukuitonga.

“Small fragile health systems in the region just won’t be able to cope,” he said.

Increased rates of diabetes, heart disease and kidney problems would also be a drain on the development potential of the Pacific because those most affect people in their 30s, 40s and 50s, the most productive working years.

Part of the problem was that Pacific islanders were increasingly eating more imported processed food – nutrient-poor but calorie-rich – and shunning their traditional diets.

Children who were glued to electronic gadgets and not doing as much physical activity were another risk factor.

Asked if Pacific countries should consider introducing a fat tax on junk food, Tukuitonga said the idea had some merit.

“There’s good evidence, based on the experience with tobacco where you … put a tax on an item, it raises the price and you generally have reduced consumption,” he said.

French Polynesia, Nauru, Fiji and Samoa have already introduced taxes on soft drinks, and some Pacific governments are considering restricting junk food advertising on television.

Obese countries’ rankings

  1. Cook Islands (46.6% of population)
  2. Palau (43.1%)
  3. Qatar (40%)
  4. Nauru (39.7%)
  5. Niue (37.7%)
  6. Marshall Islands (36.9%)
  7. Tonga (36.4%)
  8. Samoa (36%)
  9. Kuwait (35.5%)
  10. Tuvalu (34.5%)
  11. Australia (28.4%)
  12. New Zealand (27.7%)

 

Some of the surveys have placed Fiji at 68 and its Melanesian neighbours on different stages on the list with Vanuatu (47), Solomon Islands (115) and Papua New Guinea (145).

 




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