Editorial comment: Need for wellness

Ministry of Health’s National Advisor Non Communicable Disease Dr Isimeli Tukana (right) with Fiji Sugar Corporation General Manager Corporate Services Kameli Batiweti at the Fiji Law Society - International Bar Association Conference in Nadi. Picture: REINAL CHAND

The revelation that about 400 Fijians aged 45 and 200 aged 40 die each year because of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) should be cause for concern.

National adviser for NCDs and head of Wellness Centre Dr Isimeli Tukana made the revelation.

He spoke at the Fiji Law Society-International Bar Association conference in Nadi on Saturday.

The creation of the National Wellness Centre in Fiji, he said, started in 2012 in response to the NCDs crisis in the Pacific.

“So we are moving away from illness to a wellness perspective.

“Why change to wellness? Because Fijians are dying prematurely.”

When a Fijian reaches 45, he said, it escalates to about 400 deaths per year.

“Everybody will die, but why die at 40 or 45?”

The answer to addressing premature deaths, he said, lay in advocating and spreading the wellness gospel to expectant mothers.

“In the NCDs space that I come from, if a Fijian is dying at 40, he or she must be sick at 20 because it’s a long-term disease.

“So if we are sick at 20 then the lifestyle needs to be sorted at a very young age,” he pointed out.

That’s a frightening reality.

It touches at the very heart of how we look after ourselves.

That gives a rather bleak look at how we feed ourselves and how we look at food in general. The harsh reality points at us embracing change in our lifestyle.

It suggests this must be done as soon as possible.

That means reorganising how we look at food we put on our table.

It means appreciating the different food groups, and what they offer our body.

It means prioritising what we feed our children.

That means understanding and appreciating the importance of developing healthy eating habits for our children.

Dr Tukana talks about the Fijian movement in the NCD space now moving down to children.

“We are saying that if we work on their behaviour then the chances of pushing premature mortality is high,” he suggests.

“Wellness Fiji believes that if you want to talk about mental health in Fiji, you have to start from pregnancy.

“At two weeks of pregnancy, the brain starts to grow and stops growing when the skull closes at five years.

“That, to me, is a very important issue for Fiji.

“If we want Fijian minds to change, we have to start at pregnancy.”

Understandably our challenge is to embrace this needed change.

However, the powers that be also have a challenge to put in place measures that will enable the masses to afford this change.

Otherwise we may even be looking at an exercise in futility in some sections of the population.

More Stories