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Combatting NCDs in 10 minutes

Saturday 7 May 2022 | Written by CI News Staff | Published in Health, National

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Combatting NCDs in 10 minutes
Encouraging children to eat healthy foods at an early age could make a real difference in combatting non-communicable diseases in the Cook Islands. Photo: Konini Rongo/22050613

Stakeholders in the community have come together to tackle the long-running problem of non-communicable diseases that has affected Cook Islanders for many years.

Kōrero o te ’Ōrau, Te Marae Ora, the Cook Islands Ministry of Education, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Corrective Services, the Rising Stars Championship for Netball & Rugby, and Te Tango ‘Enua have proposed a simple plan to combat the number one cause of death around the world and more specifically in the Cook Islands.  

According to the Liggins Institute of the University of Auckland, NCDs kill around 41 million people each year, equivalent to 71 per cent of all deaths globally. In the Cook Islands alone, NCDs cause 74 per cent of deaths, with 36 per cent occurring before the age of 60.

The Ten Minutes to Change campaign will move into participating schools in Term 2. Teachers and students will be asked to take 10 minutes of every school day to sit together and eat fruits and vegetables.

The thought behind this simple idea is that if done consistently, this will help form good habits and shift the mindset of our people towards eating and becoming healthier,” says Kōrero o te ‘Ōrau Member Keykore Ahsin Charlie. 

“Good nutrition should also increase learning and focus in schools, and students will learn which fruits and vegetables are edible and will hopefully acquire the taste for them,” he says.

“This also encourages spending quality time together during kaikai in schools, and the next step is encouraging planting at home.

“In addition to the many benefits this campaign can bring, there will be prizes for schools to win.”

Ministries and stakeholders will continue to assist schools to stay on top of the simple campaign, and will help those who are keen to take the next step and plant around their homes, Ahsin Charlie says.

“For example, Te Marae Ora will provide information to schools on the nutritional value of foods, and highlight foods that should be avoided (eg fizzy drinks and sugary junk food).” 

Garden planting at schools and homes will continue to be supported by Kōrero o te ‘Ōrau, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Corrective Services, and Te Tango ‘Enua. There will also be a strong emphasis for a smoke-free, alcohol-free, and drug-free living, linking to a healthy active lifestyle and participation in community and school sports, such as the upcoming Rising Stars Championship for Netball and Rugby – supported by Vodafone and BCI. 

One of the key drivers behind organizing the campaign with stakeholders, Ahsin Charlie has had a strong passion for helping Cook Islands’ youth adopt healthier eating habits from a young age. 

He led a group called #Kai4Kids who presented a healthy meals concept to the Taki Tahi Entrepreneur Development Workshop in 2021. They were then invited by TMO Secretary Bob Williams to collaborate and form a plan to tackle the problem of NCDs, and Keykore took on the task joining local NGO, Kōrero o te ‘Ōrau, to refine the idea; Kōrero o te ‘Ōrau have been working with schools on their garden project since 2018.

“We are excited to promote this campaign which may sound very simple, but the positive implications and flow-on effects are massive,” Ahsin Charlie said.

“We and our stakeholders will be working in the background to provide support to schools and households alike. 

“Ten Minutes to Change is just the start, and it is achievable. Repetition and consistency of healthy habits can change lives, and the support of our communities are vital to help make the difference.”

Tereapii Tumutoa of Te Marae Ora has also been a strong driver of this campaign.  “Though we have had many previous attempts to combat NCDs, we as a nation continue to skew towards not making much headway on this issue. 

“The 10 Minutes to Change campaign looks to try and tip the balance by a stronger focus on education and mindset changing as well as forming good habits from a young age. Hopefully this will also filter over into homes with parents making better food choices for their children and promoting active lifestyles,” said Tumutoa.   

Anyone interested in learning more about the Ten Minutes to Change campaign, should contact Keykore Ahsin Charlie at keykore.charlie@gmail.com or Tereapii Tumutoa (TMO) at tereapii.tumutoa@cookislands.gov.ck.