NON-communicable diseases (NCDs) have been declared a crisis in the Pacific and are responsible for about 80 per cent of all deaths in the region.
Globalisation, high food prices and the increasing consumption of low-nutrient foods such as instant noodles were major contributing factors towards the rising incidences of NCDs and malnutrition in the Pacific.
This was revealed by Doctor Ezekiel Nukura, technical officer with the World Health Organisation, at a workshop in Nadi where the link between trade and NCDs was being discussed.
Dr Nukura said one of the biggest concerns was the fact that many of the NCD-caused deaths were among young people.
"An increasing number of these deaths is people aged less than 70 years, some in their 30s and 40s," he said.
Dr Nukura added that trade had played a part in contributing to the rise of NCDs in the Pacific region.
"Globalisation and urbanisation have contributed to changing lifestyles and made Pacific peoples and communities more susceptible to the four main risk factors of NCDs - namely tobacco and alcohol use, unhealthy diets and physical inactivity. These modifiable risk factors give rise to high blood pressure, elevated blood glucose and obesity which in turn predispose individuals to cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes."
Dr Nukura said understanding the impact of trade on health and vice versa was critical.
"Globalisation and cross-border flows in goods, services, people and capital are affecting health in the Pacific through an increasing number of channels. Health professionals are emigrating from resource -poor settings in search of better economic opportunities. Food price rises are affecting rates of malnutrition and, at the same time, record high levels of diabetes, obesity and other diet and lifestyle related diseases are witnessed throughout the region alongside growing imports of energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods and beverages such as soft drinks and instant noodles," he said.
The four-day workshop began yesterday at the Novotel Nadi and ends on Thursday.