Feature | NEWS

TV Series Changing Food Habits In The Region

The stress on the health system in the Pacific had been immense even before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now both the virus and the NCDs have spelt more
27 Aug 2021 10:00
TV Series Changing Food Habits In The Region

The stress on the health system in the Pacific had been immense even before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now both the virus and the NCDs have spelt more deaths in the region. It is evident that those with underlying health conditions are most vulnerable during this time.

For many years now, Pacific nations including Fiji have been engaged in the fight against NCDs. Despite the many campaigns, the figures have kept on increasing.

The numbers are shocking: three Fijians a day undergo diabetes-related amputation, 90 per cent of Tongans are obese, and 40 per cent of the Pacific’s population has been diagnosed with a NCD.

NCDs account for 75 per cent of all deaths in the Pacific.


A new study by Busara Centre for Behavioural Economics has shown that television series Pacific Islands Food Revolution has impacted positively in changing Pacific lifestyle when it comes to diet.

Funded by the governments of Australia and New Zealand, Pacific Island Food Revolution is a multi-media campaign designed to re-activate local cuisine and return the region to its original good health.

The TV series have been screened in over 25 TV networks across 12 Pacific Island countries as well as internationally in Australia, New Zealand, south-east Asia, and the United Kingdom.

The program has produced radio shows in Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu – all in local languages and reaching audiences in rural and maritime areas. Social media reach for the program is outstanding, reaching almost six million people.

At the end of year two, the program was commissioned in close collaboration with local partner organisations that surveyed 330 people to assess its impact in Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu, and Samoa.


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It was found that there was a high level of engagement with the TV series with most people watching eight episodes or more, with Tonga reporting 85 per cent viewership, Samoa 84 per cent, Fiji 63 per cent and Vanuatu 49 per cent.

On average 42 per cent of people who have engaged with the show have reported a positive change in their diets over the past year.

The Pacific Island Food Revolution increased the share of individuals reporting shifting their diets towards more local and healthy food over the 2020 period.

The study showed that Pacific Island Food Revolution was associated with an excess likelihood of diet improvements of approximately 33 per cent in Fiji, 262 per cent in Tonga, 38 per cent in Vanuatu, and 146 per cent in Samoa.

The findings showed there was a significant official health messaging around shifting to local food, but little guidance on how to do it.


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What Does This Mean?

It is estimated that over the next five years, an estimated 165,000 people will have moved towards better health outcomes.

According to the study, this will result in net savings of over $90 million in the four participating countries.

Pacific Island Food Revolution is not just a television show.”

“We are a social movement that’s empowering and inspiring the peoples of the Pacific to make good food choices,” said PIFR’s Executive Director and Founder, Robert Oliver.

“Our innovative model works – and the numbers from this report proves this.”

“If we continue this model for the next five to 10 years, we believe we can flatten the curve of NCDs in the Pacific.”

He said PIFR worked closely with Pacific governments and understood the need for close collaboration on a national level to address the region’s health woes.


Minister for Health and Medical Services Dr Ifereimi Waqainabete said the report had incredibly promising data and supported the vision of the Fijian Government in ensuring a healthy Fijian population.

“Good food does not only address NCD issues but communicable diseases like COVID-19, too.”

“Many Fijians with diabetes and other NCDs are at a higher risk of being severely ill if they contract COVID-19,” Dr Waqainabete said.

“We need partners like Pacific Island Food Revolution to continue to push the message that local healthy food is a far better option than the unhealthy processed ones.”

Tonga’s health minister, Dr. Amelia Tu’ipulotu agreed with her Fijians counterpart.

“PIFR’s Impact Assessment Report shows us what we’ve known all along, that the answer to our regional health crisis is quite literally in our own backyard – our local food,” she said.

“This social movement that is led by the Pacific Island Food Revolution is going to change the landscape of Tongans’ health if the program continues and will move us towards a prosperous nation.”


Feedback: shalveen.chand@fijisun.com.fj

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