MY partner charity in New Zealand, ‘Take My Hands,’ informed me today (Monday) that a 40 foot container with 50 hospital beds and some 10 wheels chairs, arrived on a cargo vessel that docked in Honiara at the weekend.
The hospital beds and the wheel chairs, the first consignment of a similar number of hospital beds and wheel chairs, will be taken for immediate use at the National Referral Hospital (NRH) after the SIPA clearance arrangements have been finalized.
The NRH is short of beds due to the large number of patients suffering from diabetic illnesses brought on largely through the transition to a diet containing too much fat and sugar.
I have contributed several articles on the striking dietary changes impacting on general health and the over-burdening of medical services and particularly on the care facilities at the NRH.
It has to be said, however, that the increase in non-communicable diseases not only relate to a lack of proper nutritional education but to food import policies, climate change influencing the cultivation of subsistence food crops, lack of proper transport in rural areas restricting the marketing of cultivated food, and media promotion which has tended to give imported foods high status.
Innovative measures seems desirable to recapture the value and nutritional benefits of traditional foods such as fresh fish, leafy vegetables, root crops coconuts and low fat protein, cutting out eating too much rice and using white flour.
In terms of import policies to moderate sugar intake, the Government of French Polynesia has decided to introduce a sugar tax to counter soaring rates of diabetes.
The health minister Jacques Raynal told the public broadcaster a 25 percent tax will be levied from next year on all sugary drinks as well as foods with hidden sugar.
The tax revenue will be used exclusively for health promotion campaigns and not go into the consolidated funds.
The levy will be imposed despite an undertaking by the government re-elected this year that no new taxes would be brought in.
The number of people suffering from type-2 diabetes in French Polynesia has increased five-fold in the past 20 years, affecting now about 45,000 individuals.
Since last month, sugary drinks in New Caledonia are taxed at 22 percent which is the top rate of the new value added tax.
To close this piece, many of the answers to the Solomon Islands health problems lie beyond the portfolios of the local health departments and to reduce the increasing burden on the health services and for people to live, longer and healthier lives much more needs to be done to encourage the return to indigenous foods, to cut out tobacco use and greatly restrict the consumption of alcohol and especially to stop the consumption of illegal and dangerous home –brew, known locally as “kwaso.”