Addressing Pacific NCD crisis will advance other development priorities

A whole-of-government and whole-of-society response is needed to address the non-communicable disease (NCD) crisis in the Pacific says the King of Tonga, His Majesty King Tupou VI.

He made the comment to several hundred guests today at the opening ceremony of the inaugural Pacific NCD Summit in Nuku’alofa.  

“We have the ability to halt and reverse this NCD crisis. We have the power to protect our children and keep our development aspirations on track. So let us keep in mind some of the practical ways this NCD crisis may be addressed,” HM King Tupou VI said.

Despite the immense challenge ahead for the Pacific region, NCD crisis is surmountable and reversible, echoed the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator, Helen Clark, in her keynote address at the Summit opening.  

“We find ourselves here with good reason – progress has been insufficient and uneven in combating NCDs, both globally and in the region. The Summit is an opportunity for the Pacific to strengthen its commitment to take a stronger, integrated and more urgent action,” Ms Helen Clark said. 

“It is also a time for working on how to ensure the NCD responses are well aligned with global health and development agendas more broadly, including with the SAMOA Pathway. 

“A proactive NCD response will help the Pacific to make lasting progress on a wide range of other health and development priorities in turn, and support the achievement of the SAMOA Pathway’s aspirations and the Sustainable Development Goals,” the UNDP Administrator added. 

The Pacific NCD Summit was opened by the His Majesty King Tupou VI with over 120 high-level delegates representing Pacific Island governments and development partners in attendance including the President of Kiribati, Taneti Maamau, and ministers of health from some 14 Pacific countries. 

It is jointly organised by the Government of Tonga and the Pacific Community (SPC), with support from the Australian Government, New Zealand Aid Programme, Government of the United States, World Bank, World Diabetes Foundation (WDF), World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).  

“We recognise the importance of coming together to reaffirm our commitment and to pledge more urgent and stronger action to tackle this crisis head-on. This can only be done by learning from each other’s challenges and achievements and working together in a regionally coordinated approach to address NCD at the country and regional level,” Pacific Community Director-General, Dr Colin Tukuitonga said.  

NCDs - primarily heart disease, cancers, lung disease and diabetes – are the leading cause of death in the Pacific, with life expectancy declining in some Pacific Island countries as a result of NCD-related premature deaths.  

Efforts to effectively respond to this crisis have being made with the Pacific adopting targets and strategies such as those outlined in the Pacific NCD Roadmap. 

“We at the World Diabetes Foundation are committed to supporting the Pacific region through our partnerships, funding and expertise. Success stories on the fight against diabetes and other NCDs in the Pacific region will not only benefit thousands of people living here, but will act as a guiding light for others fighting NCDs worldwide,” WDF Managing Director, Dr Anders Dejgaard said. 

The Summit, which is being hosted at the Fa’onelua Convention Centre, will conclude on 22 June