The figures were highlight ed in the 2015 Statistical Portal report.
“Cook Islands was the country with the fourth highest prevalence of diabetes, with some 21.5 per cent of its population aged between 20 and 79 suffering from the disease,” the report said.
And the Ministry of Health’s health promotion manager, Karen Tairea says the figures highlighted by Statistical Portal is not surprising.
“With the Cook Islands having very high obesity rates, I am not surprised by these figures as obesity is a risk factor.
“Our steps survey reports a high percentage (23 per cent) of the population having raised blood sugar levels – this puts us at high risk of developing diabetes,” Tairea said.
In 2014, she said the Health Ministry recorded about 1194 diabetes cases with about 63 new cases.
Tairea said diabetes shares the same risk factors as other non-communicable diseases.
“Health should be seen as an investment not an expense.
“Family history, obesity, unhealthy diet, not enough physical activity, stress, high blood pressure, previous diabetes during pregnancy.
“Diabetes shares the same risk factors as many other NCDs and we often raise awareness about NCD’s in general – which includes diabetes.”
She says the main challenge they face is to try to change diabetics eating habit and lifestyle.
“If you have diabetes – please take your medication as prescribed, keep your doctor’s appointment, and take time to learn more about diabetes and what lifestyle changes you can make to avoid complications.
“There is always more that can be done. However, we are doing what we can with the resources we have.
“Having other organisations assisting would be good and also individuals need to take responsibility for their health as well – making the changes needed to stay healthy and if you have diabetes taking medications as prescribed and keeping doctors’ appointments.
“If you have a family history of diabetes – get tested every year so you know your status.”
The Cook Islands Health Strategy (2012-2017) revealed the ministry spent a significant amount from its budget on diabetics.
The budget bears the risk of the cost of travel for patients referred to New Zealand and from the outer islands.
“In 2010-2011, a total of $213, 000 was spent for referral of 240 patients to overseas hospitals $888 each,” the strategy states.
Members of the public are encouraged to eat healthy foods and exercise regularly.