Wednesday 29 June 2011, World Health Organisation/Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Honiara, Solomon Islands - The Prime Minister of Solomon Islands, Honourable Danny Philip has urged Ministers of Health of Pacific Island countries to continue their work and efforts to address health challenges in the region.While opening the Ninth Meeting of Ministers of Health for Pacific Island Countries in Honiara yesterday Mr Philip said it is a great and promising sign for the Pacific that the ministers meet to discuss health issues every two years.
He went on to say that health is the most important single item on the Pacific agenda today, and that in terms of the threat it poses to island nations it is equal in importance only to global warming and sea level rise.
The Health Ministers Meeting, jointly organised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), will review progress in implementing recommendations from the previous meeting, in Madang, Papua New Guinea in 2009.
WHO's Regional Director for the Western Pacific, Dr Shin Young-Soo told delegates that there has been steady progress in implementation of recommendations from the meeting in Madang and that some important milestones had been achieved.
Dr Shin said Pacific Island countries were in the front line in addressing noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) at the First Global Ministerial Conference on NCDs, which took place in Moscow in April this year. He added that the Pacific, which earned its name as the Blue Continent at the conference, has become a key stakeholder in the fight against the global epidemic of NCDs. He went on to say that it is now necessary to turn commitment and awareness into action. It is hoped that the international community will recognise and address concerns of the Blue Continent with its scattered islands and specific health challenges bound together by the sea.
SPC's Director-General, Dr Jimmie Rodgers said that there is a need for a paradigm shift in approaches to tackling priorities in health. 'We need to shift our thinking away from addressing health priorities to addressing priorities that impact on health,' he said. Dr Rodgers also said that it was important for the people of the Pacific Islands to ask themselves what sort of society they would like to see in future decades and for leaders to think about the legacy they will leave behind. 'The answer to this question must inform the choices we make and the decisions we take to champion health for current generations of Pacific Island people while at the same time laying the foundation to ensure the health of future generations of Pacific Island people as the legacy that we bequeath to future generations,' he said.
The three-day meeting will also be an opportunity for the ministers to consider and address priority regional issues relating to health.
The biennial meeting of the Ministers of Health for Pacific Island Countries has become an important forum for discussion and exchange of views, with each meeting building on the outcomes of the previous meeting.
Representatives of 21 Pacific Island countries and territories as well as participants and observers from regional organisations are attending the meeting in Honiara.