Alarmed by the near-epidemic rate of non-communicable diseases in the Commonwealth, stakeholder from various organizations and government agencies met yesterday morning at the Pacific Islands Club’s Napu Room to revive the Non-Communicable Disease Alliance.
Rebecca Robles, the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.’s Division of Public Health NCD Bureau administrator said the alliance aims to beef up efforts to bring down the rate of non-communicable diseases on the islands.
“The CNMI is still struggling to address the epidemic of non-communicable diseases and the complex factors that contribute to their high prevalence. So what we want to do is how can we raise a better and stronger awareness in the community,” Robles said.
She noted that the top five leading chronic diseases in the CNMI—all of which causes death and disability—are cancer, cardiovascular disease, stroke, renal disease, and diabetes. This does not even take into account other NCDs being seen in the CNMI, she added.
Health officials emphasized the urgent need to adopt changes in people’s lifestyle to combat the spread of NCDs, particularly since traditional ways and practices of islanders contribute more to these NCDs, hence awareness of NCDs is a must.
Poor education about health issues and people’s lack of accessibility to a healthy food supply were also blamed for the escalating rate of NCDs in the Commonwealth.
Among the potential methods cited for people to be educated about these issues is the promotion of physical activity and reaching out through the media, restaurants, and other key players.
“Addressing these concerns to the public is of utmost importance so that people would understand about the high rates of NCDs here in the CNMI, that is why the [Alliance] is very important because a bigger group would be better,” Robles said.
With the revival of the Non-Communicable Disease Alliance, the group elected its initial batch of officers, with Hardt Eye Clinic’s Dr. Don Hardt elected chairman.
In an interview after the meeting, Hardt said: “I just want to help so many people, especially to raise awareness of diabetes here because it needs to be better. So I want to help for everyone to be better.”
Other elected NCDA officers are Gary Sword of KKMP as vice chairman, Marian Tudela of Food and Nutrition Assistance Program as secretary, Diana Camacho of Ayuda Network as treasurer, and Kaitlyn Nieses of CHCC as ex-officio officer.
It was decided that the officers would meet at various times and hold meetings with key representatives from the NCDA members and form a better structure as its first step.
Other stakeholders are CHCC, DPH, NAP, the Public School System, media groups, Hardt Eye Clinic, Northern Marianas College-CREES, Commonwealth Cancer Association, Rota Health Center, Kagman Community Health Center, Staywell, Tinian Health Center, Division of Youth Services, CHCC-Community Guidance Center, Marianas Health Services, DPH-Let’s Move Marianas, CNMI Diabetes Coalition, disability stakeholders, community members, and other organizations.