TRADE often trumps public health.
This was a comment made by public health academic and Professor of Health Equity from the Australian National University Sharon Friel while addressing researchers at the Pacific Islands Health Research Symposium in Nadi yesterday.
Citing examples from Tonga where the import of mutton flaps caused an increase in obesity among Tongans, Professor Friel said there was a need to address this issue where bilateral trades affected the health of people in a developing country.
"As the big multi-national countries form partnerships and agreements with other countries they bring with them their produce. Of course this is an important aspect of a developing country.
"We have a trade pathway agreement sitting on one side and then we have this public health challenge sitting on other side and of course there is a high degree of dialogue that occurs between these sectors," she said.
For Fiji's case, NCD national adviser Doctor Isimeli Tukana said it would be a challenge to maintain a balance between obtaining an income from the biltarel agreements but at the same time ensuring that people remained healthy.
"The challenge for us in the Ministry of Health is to engage with government so that we market through evidence the health side of the trade so that at the end of the day, Fijians are getting money from the trade and at the same time improving the health of the people," Dr Tukana said.
"That is actually the situation right now. The trade part is the economic part and the challenge for the Ministry of Health and for the government is to raise through evidence the health part of it," he said.
Dr Tukana agreed that trade often trumped health "because that's the way trade works".
"Trade is about getting money into the country while we are talking about economic health. We need to strike a balance to ensure that while we are rich, we are also healthy. So that the money side of things does not overcome the health side of things," he said.