Wednesday 29 June 2011, WHO/SPC, Honiara, Solomon Islands

The World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for the Western Pacific, Dr Shin Young-Soo said it is extremely important that issues relating to noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) in the Pacific Islands are addressed by leaders at the United Nations High-level Meeting on NCD prevention and control in September this year.
At a press conference during the Ninth Meeting of the Ministers of Health for the Pacific Island Countries in Honiara Dr Shin said that NCDs are increasing exponentially in the Pacific Islands.

NCDs, principally cancer, cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory illnesses and diabetes, are responsible for about 75% of deaths in the Pacific Islands.

Dr Shin said documents including a proposed Honiara Communiqué are being prepared for the UN meeting, which is an opportunity for the Pacific to present a united voice and advocate for issues of concern to the region with a view towards mobilising more resources to address the growing NCD epidemic.

The Director-General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Dr Jimmie Rodgers said that ministries of health are aware of the problems of NCDs in their countries; the challenge they face is to achieve whole-of-government and whole-of-community support. He emphasised that while it is important to address NCDs at the international and regional levels, it is equally important that prime ministers and cabinet ministers accept and declare that NCDs are a crisis at the national level. 'In a way it helps governments to lift NCDs to another level, which will then translate into regional, national and international action. This will provide a better platform to launch our actions at the international level,' Dr Rodgers said.

Ministers of Health from Pacific Island countries will discuss a proposal to declare NCDs a crisis in the Pacific and call for NCDs to be the focus of actions by the health sector and its partners for the next biennium.

Discussions will also focus on how to scale up action in the Pacific to take a more proactive approach to addressing the NCD crisis building on lessons learnt from the Pacific Framework for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases developed in 2007. The framework was established through a partnership between WHO, SPC and the 22 Pacific Island countries and territories. This joint effort, called the '2-1-22 Pacific NCD Programme' has included a considerable amount of work that is beginning to show positive impact in some areas. It is currently being reviewed and there is discussion on how lessons learnt can best be applied to ensure sustained support to the countries and territories in the future.