MATA-UTU, Wallis and Futuna—To stem the non-communicable diseases crisis in Wallis and Futuna, community leaders have committed to declare public community areas smoke-free and to cultivate gardens to promote consumption of healthy local foods.
They will also exclude sugar-sweetened beverages and alcohol from community gatherings.
These are among the outcomes of the first-ever joint mission to Wallis and Futuna by the Pacific Community and World Health Organization, to support the national Health Agency in its efforts to scale-up action on NCDs.
Over 42 percent of adults in the territory use the leading cause of preventable death, tobacco, on a daily basis, while the “silent killer”—hypertension—also affects more than 34 percent of adults (the second highest rate in the Pacific).
The mission by SPC and WHO, which concluded last week, centred on building support for a multi-sectoral approach to addressing NCDs, and raising awareness of NCDs and prevention measures in both French and Wallisian to participants, including political and traditional leaders, and community members.
There was resounding support from participants for political leaders to take policy-level action to combat NCDs.
“Our community leaders and parents are role models for our youth and children. It is our responsibility to make sure we set good examples for them and help them to have healthy futures. This is why it is time to take action to prevent NCDs,” chief of Vaitupu in Hihifo, Vahai Tuulaki, said.
SPC and WHO made recommendations to Wallis and Futuna, which include establishing a multi-sectoral NCD committee to coordinate and facilitate actions; developing a national NCD action plan with defined activities, as well as the roles and responsibilities of committee members.
They also recommended developing tobacco control legislation which includes prohibiting sales of tobacco to minors, establishing smoke-free settings, packaging and labeling requirements to warn people of the dangers of using tobacco products; and the strengthening of NCD surveillance to continue monitoring the burden of NCDs as well as to measure the impact of NCD prevention actions.
In April, SPC’s Non-Communicable Diseases Officer, Solène Bertrand-Protat, assisted the national Health Agency’s Prevention Services Team with a stocktake of NCD prevention programmes and services.
Wallis and Futuna then sent representatives to the Pacific NCD Summit in Tonga to exchange knowledge and ideas. (PR)