The rising tide of Non Communicable Diseases epidemic in the Pacific and Climate change have been emphasized by the Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna while speaking at the Pasifika Medical Associations Conference.
The Cook Islands Prime Minister was the keynote speaker at the conference lastweek which was held at the Matavai Resort where more than 100 health practitioners attended.
Puna highlighted that he chose to attend the medical conference instead of the UN General Assembly in New York as health is a major pressing issue in the Pacific region.
“ I also wanted to be here because I pushed so hard at the recent forum leaders meeting in Tuvalu for health to become a standing agenda item for future forum leaders meetings because the reality is we are facing numerous health challenges particularly with NCD’s and obesity. I don’t like being known as part of the NCD capital of the world and yet that is the reality that we in the pacific here are very very very negligent with our health, particularly with NCDs but I also wanted to be seen doing something about addressing that serious challenge. The last couple of years we led in the region have been focused on climate change and so we should because it is an existential threat that faces all of us in the region but also I think we’ve taken our eyes of a more pressing challenge and that is the health challenge facing our region and I’m so pleased that when I raised it in the Forum leaders meeting in Tuvalu that my colleagues through out the Pacific wholeheartedly agreed so we made a good start but I impressed on the PMA conference participants this morning that we needed guidance from the professionals. We politicians might think we know everything but in reality we know nothing so we need to be guided in addressing the health issue and challenges of our region by real professionals”
He highlighted that most of the population in the Pacific do not have access to safe drinking water.
He also touched on mental health as a major issue in the pacific as often unseen and overlooked adding that climate change has exacerbated mental health in terms of uncertainty and anxiety, especially for those who depend on subsistence livelihood.
Close to 140 medical practitioners attended the conference including Dr Colin Tukuitonga, Niuean medical practitioners and their colleagues from New Zealand and the Pacific.
Meanwhile, the Cook Islands Prime Minister was accorded a traditional Niuean ceremony called takalo when he arrived at the airport last Monday.
He was greeted by the Acting Premier Billy Talagi, members of cabinet, Speaker of Parliament and the Secretary to Government at the airport.