Pacific summit to strengthen response to non-communicable diseases crisis

Pacific Islands’ leaders and ministers, and officials from regional and global development agencies, will gather in the Kingdom of Tonga from 20-22 June 2016 to deliberate on better ways to tackle the region’s non-communicable diseases (NCDs) crisis.

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.


The first ever Pacific NCD Summit is a collaboration between the Government of Tonga and the Pacific Community (SPC), supported by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the New Zealand Aid Programme, World Bank, World Diabetes Foundation, World Health Organization and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).


Taking place in Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa, the high-level summit theme is “Translating Global and Regional Commitments into Local Action”.


It will be officially opened by His Majesty King Tupou VI, with a keynote address due to be delivered by UNDP Administrator Helen Clark focusing on the links between NCDs and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


“There’s no shortage of declarations, commitments and strategies aimed at addressing NCDs, but with up to 75 per cent of deaths in the Pacific related to NCDs, current efforts just aren’t enough,” the Pacific Community Director-General, Dr Colin Tukuitonga said.


In addition, there is a significant socio-economic burden placed on many Pacific Island countries and territories that are unable to provide essential medicines and services for preventing and caring for people with NCDs.


“Despite the challenges, we need to ensure that our response is multi-sectoral, and aligned to commitments. This summit aims to present a case for more urgent and collaborative action towards addressing NCDs in the Pacific at the global, regional and national level,” the Tonga Minister for Health and acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr Saia Piukala, said.


Among its objectives, the summit will review how Pacific Island countries and territories are implementing their NCD activities aligned with the SDGs and the Samoa Pathway.


The participants will also review progress with the Pacific NCD Roadmap in an effort to accelerate implementation; seek to strengthen current funding arrangements and explore new sources of funding; and create opportunities for South-South collaboration in implementing good practice to address NCDs.


Tonga, as the host nation, has demonstrated strong commitment and leadership in its efforts to address NCDs. Tonga is the first country in the world to develop an NCD strategy (2004), the first in the Pacific to set up a Health Promotion Foundation (2008) and has shown some positive progress in the most recent STEPwise approach to Surveillance (STEPS) survey in 2012, compared to an earlier survey in 2004.



Pic: Pacific NCD Network