‘Cancer burden’ a Pacific health concern: Herman

Thursday August 08, 2019 Written by Published in Health
Ministry of Health staff with secretary Dr Josephine Herman (3rd-from left) and minister Rose Brown (5th from left) at the Tahiti Airport.  19080703 Ministry of Health staff with secretary Dr Josephine Herman (3rd-from left) and minister Rose Brown (5th from left) at the Tahiti Airport. 19080703

Secretary for Health Dr Josephine Herman has called for a strengthened regional approach to combat what is known in the Pacific as the “cancer burden”.


The minister for Health Rose Brown together with the Dr Herman and other Cook Islands medical experts are in Papeete, French Polynesia attending the 13th Pacific Health Ministers meeting this week.

According to the Pacific Community (SPC) the biennial meetings of ministers of health for the Pacific Island Countries helps develop a consensus on health in the Pacific and set future directions in the effort to build healthy islands.

Dr Herman, together with Professor Diana Sarfati, says it’s important to combat this "cancer burden" as statistics are alarming.

According to MedicaXpress, Sarfati says people living in the Pacific Islands are dying regularly from highly treatable cancers because of a lack of cancer care services around the region.

Sarfati, of the University of Otago, Wellington, and The Lancet Oncology lead author says: "Many Pacific Island countries and territories either lack or have poorly developed cancer screening, pathology, oncology, surgical and palliative care services. Added to this, access to morphine is very limited, so death can often be excruciating.”

She said because of the lack of cancer screening and diagnostic services, patients often tend to seek medical attention only when their cancers are at an advanced stage.

She stated that Pacific nations are facing the double burden of dealing with cancers linked to poverty and infection, as well as those associated with obesity and tobacco use.

"Cancers linked to poverty and infection are coinciding with those cancers that are more associated with a changing diet, physical inactivity, obesity and exposure to tobacco, such as lung, breast and uterine cancers."

Furthermore, her report showed that about 16,200 new cancer cases and 9,800 cancer deaths are reported in the Pacific Islands.

Meanwhile, the Health ministers meeting also discussed topics on whether the Pacific can achieve the global target of a "15 per cent reduction of physical inactivity among adults and adolescents by 2030”.

“The reduction of non-communicable diseases is a priority,” says- Dr Hai-Rim Shin of the World Health Organisation who presented on global targets, sparking important discussions among Pacific Health ministers.

The ministers from the Pacific also looked into childhood obesity surveillance and a need for an integrated whole-of-government approach at national levels, identifying priorities under the Pacific Ending Childhood Obesity Network.

Wayne King director of Climate Change Cook Islands stated that: "In 2018, Cook Islands has accessed Green Climate Fund (GCF) resources to improve and modify its full proposal on 'Building Resilient and Healthy Cook Islands Communities”.


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