Pacific Medical Association’s conference was held in Rarotonga. MELINA ETCHES / 23090618
I went to the morning session on the second day of the Pacific Medical Association’s conference here in Rarotonga, I was particularly interested in the role of traditional health and wellness models that countries with native populations ringing the Pacific had developed, writes Te Tuhi Kelly.
Some interesting developments regarding the whole area of
health and wellness, especially in Anchorage Alaska were presented and long
overdue to be adopted and ‘RARO-ised’ for us here in the Cook Islands.
Doctor Sir Colin Tukuitonga spoke about Noncommunicable
diseases (NCDS) and the fact that despite significant investment in this area,
despite high level policy and despite resource allocation, NCDS were in fact on
“What is the NCD rate in the Cook Islands?
The World Health Organization (WHO) global action plan NCD
target seeks to reduce NCD-associated premature deaths by 25% by 2025.
The proportion of premature deaths from NCDS in the Cook
Islands has steadily declined (2016 = 24%, 2017 = 22%, 2018 = 20%), in 2019, it
That is deaths, that doesn’t consider the cost of health and
wellness care which requires medical intervention both here and in New Zealand
and at tremendous cost.
So, despite appealing to people about their health and that
of their partners, nothing seems to be getting home here in the Cook Islands,
especially with our men folk.
To quote, “Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), such as heart
disease, stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes, are the
leading cause of mortality in the world”, so I’m not making this up, the facts
are the facts.
This is a message to all those who suffer from or contribute to their NCDS out there, who are morbidly obese, go look at yourself in the mirror, you are at extreme risk of dying when you least expect it.
You are on a roller coaster ride that only has one
conclusion for yourself, and your family, and your wider friends.
You are literally eating yourself to death because the joke
is on you, it’s a when not an if.
Forget those six-week gym crash courses, they are a
short-term fix, a whole of life change needs to occur and that’s the sad thing
about your current lifestyle leading to NCDS.
At the moment it seems no one wants to listen, no one cares,
and you will reap the consequences of poor lifestyle choices or reap the
benefits of healthy lifestyle choices.
You have a chance to live a fulfilling life, the chance to
grow old with your partner, children and grandchildren, if you don’t, don’t say
I didn’t warn you.
So, what are you going to do about it?
The other focus of course at many of these types of
conferences, is that the presenters are essentially presenting to those of like
mind, you know, talking to the converted.
The ones who need to hear the message are absent and so the
message has largely lost its effectiveness because those who need to hear the
message are not in attendance.
There is always an element of wishful thinking and in
particular about medical statistics, and the need to arrest the increase in NCDS.
At a session of the Pacific Medical Association conference,
Dr Sir Tukuitonga focused on the sale and consumption of tobacco products and
alcohol, and the need for countries to focus on trying to do something about
If they are talking about restricting access or stopping
people from using, it is a pipe dream and one that is always brought up at
these types of conferences.
The thing is, in an ideal world, yes you could ban these
products completely, but we are not in such a world because like Sir Isaac
Newton’s laws and one in particular, to every action there is an equal and opposite
The criminal element will just ignore such restrictions.
The consumer will ignore such restrictions, we only have to
look at prohibition in the United States, back in the day.
How successful was that, how many players and stayers got
rich and richer as a result.
The reality is that tobacco products and alcohol contribute
significant tax revenues for governments, they provide jobs, the trickle-down
effect is noticeable and no government in its right mind would stay in power if
measures were taken to ban those substances.
The taxes go towards government spending, business owners
pay wages, employees spend at supermarkets and the money flows through the
So that is the roll-on effect that comments made at these
sorts of conferences do not take into account, the human factor or government
factor, or economic factor.
They are all intertwined, an incestuous relationship if ever
Now if Dr Tukuitonga had said, I have an alternative that
will help government revenues, and keep people healthy and well, then he may
have got some traction.
This is the issue, these people are not economists, just
wishful thinking medical professionals.