American Samoa and Tuvalu have joined other Pacific Island countries and territories in a joint initiative to tackle the epidemic of lifestyle disease such as heart failure, diabetes and cancer.

Health representatives from the two central Pacific countries signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) under which SPC will provide support for their campaigns addressing the risk factors leading to the diseases, including lack of physical activity, poor nutrition, tobacco smoking and excessive consumption of alcohol.

Non-communicable disease (NCD) specialists from the American Samoa and Tuvalu ministries of health signed the agreement with SPC's Director of Public Health, Bill Parr (left) in Nuku'alofa, Tonga this week, where they are attending the Pacific NCD Forum.

Mr Parr said that the MOU is an instrument through which SPC can provide Australia and New Zealand-funded grants to Tuvalu and American Samoa to support their national NCD activities and the implementation of their national NCD strategies.

He explained that SPC would provide a grant of AUD 75, 000-150,000 to each of the two countries over the next three years.

'Today we have signed the last of the large country grants made available to countries under the 2-1-22 project,' Mr Parr said. 'From our experience with other countries that have accessed grants over the past couple of years since the programme commenced, it makes a huge difference at the country level.'

Dr Faiese Roby, head of the Diabetes Prevention and Control programme at the American Samoa Department of Health, thanked SPC for accepting the territory's proposal to support its NCD plan, adding that the next three years will be dedicated to NCD initiatives.

American Samoa NCD Coordinator Vaatausili Tofaeono added that the territory would look at how to build up its NCD strategy not only at the national level but at the grassroots level as well.

'We will go down to the community level and allow access through some of the community organisations that are already doing things like the Diabetes Coalition and the Cancer Coalition, to help strengthen their NCD strategies too,' he said.

The funding is part of the support given by the governments of Australia and New Zealand to countries under the 2-1-22 Pacific NCD Programme managed by SPC and the World Health Organization (WHO). Representing Tuvalu were Pelesala Kaleia and Gulugulu Fofoa (right).

In July this year, SPC signed a similar MOU with Papua New Guinea for AUD 450, 000 to support its NCD prevention and control activities.