BY SAMIE WAIKORI
COMMERCIAL and economic interest of a country is a risk to its people and environment.
Director of Malaita Health Authority, Dr Henry Kako raised the alarm in the keynote address during official opening of the National Healthy Setting Conference in Malaita on Monday.
He said while progress has been significant and inspiring, it has not sufficient to cope with the speed of change the region especially Solomon Islands is facing.
Kako said at no point in human existence has there a rate of environmental change that so profoundly threatens the health of people and the planet.
“Destruction of our habitat and destabilization of our climate compromises our access to the most fundamental requisites for human existence, safe water, clean air, food security and shelter,” he said.
Kako said climate change in particular continue to threatens many Pacific island countries and health promotion intervention are relevant to the process of adaptation and mitigation.
He said a distinct feature of life in the 21st century is the speed, power and reach of marketing of commercial products.
“People are tunes in and exposed to information at unprecedented rates.
“This can be empowering as knowledge is readily accessible to the public, but this would also require discernment to filter credible from illegitimate sources.
“At no other point in history has it possible to rapidly alter or create ‘social norms’ and influence behaviour in favour of specific products, especially those that may be harmful to our health,” Kako said.
He said that increasingly, health messages from Ministries of Health were drowned by sectors protects the commercial and economic interests of a country.
He said often times, decisions were made to support or stimulate economic growth with little or no thought on both the immediate and long term health effects of these decisions.
“There is no doubt that commercial and economic determinants create opportunities to improve quality of life.
“At the same time risk to health can no longer be ignored, especially where there is strong evidence of long-term consequences on critical health requisites.
“Increasingly, ministries of health will need to call out situations where commercial and economic decisions may result in short-term gains (e.g. job creation) and long-term adverse impacts (eg forest denudation, flash floods and loss of life and property),” Kako said.