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Ministries combine to fight fat problem

Saturday April 09, 2016 Written by Published in Health

The Cook Islands’ incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), is predicted to worsen with increasing problems of unhealthy lifestyle and behaviour according to the 2015 World Health Organisation report.

The report says around 43 per cent of children on the island are obese.

And that alarming statistic has prompted the Health and Education ministries to work on a new project that focuses on childhood obesity.

A statement issued by the Ministry of Health said the country’s obesity rate was increasing every year.

“Since 2003 rates of overweight young people have risen from 12 per cent to 21 per cent in primary schools and from 28 per cent to 43 per cent in secondary schools.”

While the NCDs continues to be an on-going issue the Ministry of Health’s secretary Elizabeth Iro has called on Cook Islanders to change their lifestyle.

Iro said she was overwhelmed to see the two ministries collaborating so strongly on the issue.

“We have always worked well together,” Iro said.

“Getting the teachers to lead the education programme design has made a big difference.”

She said more awareness was needed to address the issue.

Tereora principal Tania Morgan said the increased collaboration between Health and Education was a step in the right direction.

“It is the young people who have to make the change.

“For example we now have clear evidence that most of our students are not eating breakfast, so we can support students to understand through learning programmes why breakfast is important.”

“The decision to change has to come from the students, but we need to support them.”

The child obesity statistics were first revealed by the Health Minister Nandi Glassie during the launch of the Cook Islands Mental Health and Well Being Policy last month.

“It is my role as the minister responsible to remind us about our health,” he said.

“This is very important for us here in Cook Islands because we have been seen as one of the fattest countries in the world.”