SUVA, Feb. 19 (Xinhua) -- Representatives from 17 Pacific Island countries on Tuesday attended the two-day health forum in Nadi, Fiji's third largest town, to address a serious health problem, childhood obesity, in the region.
The Pacific Research Centre for the Prevention of Obesity and Non-Communicable Diseases (C-POND) in College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences (CMNHS) of Fiji National University (FNU) organized the forum as the secretariat for the Pacific Ending Childhood Obesity (ECHO) Network.
Dean CMNHS Dr William May said "Childhood obesity is a growing problem in the Pacific Islands. It affects the health and well-being of children and increases their risk of diabetes and heart disease in later life."
"The ambition of the network is to stimulate and support collective action in four prioritized areas -- physical activity promotion, reducing children's exposure to the marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages, the promotion and evaluation of fiscal policies such as taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages and child obesity surveillance," May said.
According to May, the ECHO Network was set up by the Ministry of Health and their partners in the Pacific in line with the vision of Healthy Islands.
Fiji's Minister for Health and Medical Services Dr Ifereimi Waqainabete on Tuesday opened the forum, stressing the need to make tangible advancements towards eliminating the childhood obesity.
"We need to make concrete progress on this issue which is not only a problem in one or two of the Pacific states but is an issue for all Pacific Island countries," he said.
The forum was attended by over 45 participants, including representatives from 17 Pacific Island countries and territories, technical agencies, and academics from regional Universities, development partners and civil society representatives.
The forum which includes plenary discussions, interactive tasks and creative group work exercises in the Network's priority areas will end on Wednesday.