Pacific launches flab fight in world's fattest region

The new chairman of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) said Wednesday that he was determined to change the unhealthy lifestyle choices that have made his region the fattest in the world.

Palau President Tommy Remengesau said that junk food had become a blight on Pacific island communities, leading to epidemic rates of heart disease, diabetes, and among an increasingly obese population.

In a region that was once legendary for its muscular warriors and lithe womenfolk, Remengesau said he feared a generation of Pacific islanders had already been lost to such non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

"Our ancestors took advantage of the local produce here, vegetables and fish," he said.

"Now we're relying too much on imported goods, canned goods, which are giving you high levels of sugar, salt and fat."

A recent study by British medical journal The Lancet found that five of the top 10 fattest countries in the world were Pacific island nations, with Tonga leading the rankings due to an obesity rate of more than 50 percent.

Official statistics show NCDs account for about 75 percent of all deaths in the Pacific, and diabetes rates exceed 40 percent in some island nations.

Remengesau took over chairmanship of the PIF at a ceremony in Palau on Tuesday night, and was out and about in the capital Koror before dawn Wednesday morning spreading his healthy lifestyle message.

"It's a hard sell because you can't legislate it," he told AFP as he set a brisk walking pace on his morning constitutional around the local athletic track.

"You can't force people to do exercise. You just hope to demonstrate to the younger generation what will work well."

Remengesau, a relatively lean 58-year old, said teenagers were now dying of in the Pacific and it was imperative that the lifestyle mistakes of recent decades were not repeated.

"I'm not giving up hope but if you're over 50 and you've got this problem then the priority will be to save the young ones," he said.

"My focus will be on the younger generation, how can we instill in them the discipline (to exercise) and the mindset that if you want to be a productive citizen you have to be a healthy citizen?"

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Pacific summit to urge action on climate change

Jul 28, 2014

Pacific island leaders will renew calls for meaningful action on climate change at a regional summit opening in Palau on Tuesday, amid fears rising seas will swamp their low-lying nations.

Pacific's Palau looks at commercial fishing ban

Mar 15, 2013

Palau's president has proposed banning all commercial fishing in the Pacific nation's waters to create one of the world's largest marine reserves, covering an area roughly the size of France.

'Lifestyle diseases' are new threat to Asia, WHO reports

Oct 21, 2013

Asia-Pacific countries face serious challenges from "lifestyle" diseases and ageing populations even as they overcome more traditional illnesses, the World Health Organisation's regional director said Monday.

Pacific nations battle obesity epidemic

Apr 10, 2011

On Tonga's supermarket shelves, huge cans of corned beef the size of paint tins replaced traditional fare such as fish and coconuts long ago -- contributing to an obesity epidemic that sees the Pacific region ranked as the ...

Pacific nations look to increase tuna fishing fees

Jun 12, 2014

Pacific island nations announced plans Thursday to dramatically increase the fees they charge tuna fishing boats for the right to enter their waters, saying it will boost revenue and help conservation efforts.

Recommended for you

Don't let high altitude ruin your holiday trip

5 hours ago

(HealthDay)—When you're planning your holiday get-away, don't forget to factor high altitude into your vacation sports—such as skiing or hiking, a sports medicine specialist cautions.

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.