Solomon Islanders paying heavy price for abandoning traditional diet

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DEAR EDITOR, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are putting a heavy burden on the country’s health services, as evidenced from reports emanating from the National Referral Hospital (NRH) and especially from the Buala Hospital where it has been reported NCD’s accounted for most deaths during the first half of this year.

According to new data, quoted in the Island Sun newspaper this week, Isabelle Province has a very high rate of NCD illness in areas of Buala, Tatamba, Konide, Bolitei and Kia.

Illnesses attributed to NCD’s include hypertension, obesity, diabetes, heart problems, stroke and anemia, but the sad aspect of this problem is that with a proper nutritional diet and a return to traditional foods NCD disease could be prevented and people live healthier, longer lives.

Education on what to eat is necessary but often health authorities are short of resources in encouraging proper eating habits and the spate of imported food products, often containing too much fat, too much sugar and high in calories has proved to be detrimental in preventing NCD linked disease.

The promotion of traditional foods seems to have fallen by the wayside and more should be done to encourage people to eat a healthier diet of vegetables, fish, fruit and nuts, more in keeping with the Melanesian diet.

Although I understand a start has already been made in the Solomons more needs to be done to reinforce nutrition education in schools by promoting healthy eating practices as part of the school curriculum.

Traditional diets are superior to Western diets in many ways because traditional foods are nutrient-dense, meals are prepared in healthful ways, and oils are used sparingly. The high-fiber, low fat nature of these diets reduces the risk for NCD linked diseases and certain types of cancer.

The habitual avoidance of eating a traditional diet has led to a high level of obesity in the Solomon Islands and when combined with a lack of regular exercise, tobacco smoking and drinking high levels of alcohol, including the consumption of illegal kwaso, or home brew, then the mix can be fatal, but totally avoidable.

Promises have been made in the past about giving attention to the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases but more needs to be done in the Solomon Islands with help from supportive partners like Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan and the United Nations through its various agencies.

As climate change continues to affect the vulnerability of food crops, food supply and food security, time is of the essence for informed decisions, including data collection, on how best to tackle NCD disease, but the bottom line is people really need to take their health more seriously and restrict or cut out the imported food and products they know, or should know, are impairing their health, fitness and longevity.

Yours sincerely

Frank Short


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