Koror, 19 July—Palau needs solid policies that will help people make good lifestyle choices and avoid non-communicable diseases (NCDs). This was among the important points raised and learned during the Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) Programs Update held at Palasia by the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Public Health’s NCD Unit.
After the last Pacific Island Health Officers Associations (PIHOA) meeting in February, they have declared non-communicable diseases a state of emergency. The recent NCD Update aimed to provide an avenue for stakeholders at Public Health and its community partners to share information and solicit strategies to address the burden of non-communicable diseases in Palau.
According to health minister Stevenson Kuartei, there should be policies that will lead individuals and community make healthy lifestyle choices, like control of tobacco and alcohol use, making sure that fresh produce—fruits and vegetables—are available.
'We also plan to make Palau an exercise-friendly nation,' Mr Kuartei said. 'Where do people go to exercise without having to be subjected to dog bites or car accidents? We can also develop bike lanes and pathways along the periphery of Koror.'
The minister said that one of the things that came out of the NCD Update was the fact that people do not have the luxury of time in dealing with non-communicable diseases.
'We had developed a psyche in which we equate health with diseases,' he said. People have the notion that they can do what they want and when they get sick all they need to do is go to the hospital and that will solve their problems, he said.
'For communicable diseases, it might work because we have antibiotics that can cure these diseases, but not with the non-communicable diseases,' explained Kuartei. 'There is no cure for that. The cure is in the hands of each individual. And to help that individual, his behavior should change. The environment in which he lives should change.'
The Minister said he hopes that people get the message of the existence of sense of urgency. 'We need to act now if we are going to protect the next generation,' Mr Kuartei said.
One of the goals of the NCD Update was to be able to draft a declaration of health emergency to be presented to Olbiil Era Kelulau.
'That’s under work now,' Mr Kuartei said. But what Palau needs is to have a whole of society approach. 'The MOH, in artnership with other government agencies, such as the Ministries of Community and Cultural Affairs, Infrastructure, Tourism, Agriculture, Fisheries and the community at large should look at how we can deal with the issue of non-communicable diseases in a more urgent way.'
Mr Kuartei said the declaration of health emergency would be a work in progress over generations. 'We need to be disciplined enough to declare a state of emergency and mark a certain amount of money to create a community-based wellness center that would continue to advocate the next generation all the way to the seventh generation.'—PNS