SUVA, July 2 (Xinhua) -- The rate of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Fiji is growing rapidly as Fijians struggle to change lifestyles opting for processed foods rather than fresh vegetables and food their ancestors relied on.
While opening the National Diabetes Footcare Symposium in Suva on Monday, Fiji's Assistant Minister for Health and Medical Services Alex O'Connor said that every Fijian's help was needed to address the deadly disease and to change lifestyle habits for healthier options and longer life spans.
"There are bad habits that affect our health, which includes excessive alcohol intake, tobacco and consuming too much processed food," he said.
O'Connor added that consuming lots of sugar, oil and salt increased the risks of getting diseases such as hypertension, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.
"NCDs (non-communicable diseases) affects the productivity level and affects the quality of one's life," he said.
He further added that the three leading causes of disability and deaths in Fiji are heart diseases, diabetes and stroke.
"Given that addressing diabetes is one of the key strategies to reduce NCD, this symposium is an opportunity to bridge the gap in care of diabetes."
This has been the second National Diabetes Footcare Symposium to take place in Fiji.
The estimated financial cost and economic burden of diabetes in Fiji reached a staggering 124 million Fijian dollars (about 59 million U.S. dollars)) in 2014 with health experts sounding an urgent need for people to relook at their lifestyles and eating habits.
Jone Hawea, a medical doctor and co-director of the Foundation for Rural Integrated Enterprise and Development in Fiji, said earlier diabetes was really an "ongoing disaster."
Hawea said earlier the losses incurred financially and on families, medication and the state was scary and difficult to maintain.
He said diabetes had the single highest impact on productivity of all non-communicable diseases in Fiji.
He said diabetes imposed a huge financial and non-financial burden on Fiji's economy, adding the latter amounted to more than 56,000 lives lost because of ill-health, disability or premature death.
The latest life expectancy world rankings show Fiji had the highest death rate from diabetes in the world with 188 of 100,000 fatalities being attributed to the disease.