Fijians urged to make healthy choices to prevent diabetes

Prevention is critical for decreasing diabetes rates and the risk of developing NCDs can be lowered by Fijians making healthy choices for themselves and their families.

This was highlighted by the Speaker of the Fijian Parliament His Excellency Sir Ratu Epeli Nailatikau while launching the World Diabetes Day and the Diabetes Fiji 2020-2030 Strategic Plan at the USP AusAID Lecture Theatre this morning.

“The theme for this year’s world diabetes day is “Family and Diabetes”. This is indeed a timely reminder of the impact that diabetes has not just on the patient, but also on the family. On the one hand, it adds to the financial and caregiving burden of the family.

“On the other hand, the family plays a vital role in fighting and winning this war, such as creating a supportive environment to lead healthier lives together and providing social and emotional support to their loved ones with diabetes,” Sir Ratu Epeli said.

The Speaker also highlighted that there are many people in Fiji living with diabetes who may not even know it because they do not have the symptoms or that they do not even know what the symptoms are – therefore it is most important to get their blood sugar tested regularly in order to know their status.

“Diabetes is now very common in Fiji and the number of people with diabetes is growing. Currently, almost 1 in every 3 Fijians is being diagnosed with diabetes that is 30% of the population.

“The war on diabetes has provided us with a strong foundation to do more and do better in terms of health promotion.

“Besides improvements in terms of healthier food quality and more physical activity, we need to better integrate, coordinate and scale up efforts to infuse health into every aspect of Fijian lives.

“To achieve this, we have to coordinate and synergize efforts across multiple public agencies, and explore ideas that harness the power of community, infrastructure, technology and behavioural insights, to nudge and encourage Fijians towards adopting a healthy lifestyle,” Sir Ratu Epeli added.

Chairperson of Diabetes Fiji Mr Taabish Akbar said that it is quite unfortunate that deaths from diabetes is one of the highest in the world and according to the World Health Organisation, it is the biggest killer in Fiji.

“This is something we need to take very seriously and unfortunately there’s a lot of misunderstanding about diabetes which we need to now work with the relevant ministries to try and educate the people to understand the disease.

“First thing is to get screened and know your diabetic status. Without diagnosis, you’re fighting a losing battle,” Mr Akbar added.

The launch this morning was also attended by the Assistant Minister for Health and Medical Services, Hon. Alexander O’Connor, Leader of the Opposition Hon. Sitiveni Rabuka and other invited guests.