Editorial comment – Tough call, critical decisions

SO more Fijians die from cardiovascular related illnesses than from diabetes, we are told. A joint statement by the Ministry of Health and Medical Services and the World Health Organization revealed that in 2017, Fiji had almost twice as many cardiovascular related deaths as those resulting from diabetes. In line with global trends, the statement pointed out, cardiovascular disease takes the lives of 17.7 million people each year, accounting for 31 per cent of all deaths worldwide. While diabetes-related diseases are not the leading cause of death in Fiji, it said, NCDs like diabetes and cardiovascular disease are major concerns for Fiji. Prevention, it said, was critical to decrease non-communicable disease death rates. The risk of developing NCDs could also be lowered by Fijians making healthy choices for themselves and their families, it said. Cardiovascular disease, the joint statement offered, was more likely to develop in people who smoked, have an unhealthy diet, were not physically active and or misused alcohol. The reality is that a person becomes more at-risk of cardiovascular disease when they have raised blood pressure, elevated blood sugar and or are overweight or obese. Early identification of Fijians who are at risk of developing these diseases is paramount. This is why all health facilities in Fiji offer free screening services for NCDs and their risk factors. Health facilities, the joint statement said, can also provide free advice on how to reduce risk. This is quite important to note. While screenings and other health programs are also being delivered in some workplaces and communities, the onus is on us to be proactive. It falls on us to be aware. We must embrace information about NCDs. That means ensuring we are able to understand and appreciate the changes that must happen in our lives. So going back to what we had started this piece off with, perhaps the revelation that more Fijians die from cardiovascular related illnesses than from diabetes should not overtake the fact that both diseases rate quite highly here. Instead, we should be concerned about the fact that they are actually issues we must address urgently. Whether you attempt to fight cardiovascular disease with a Mediterranean diet for instance, or whether you intend to be more active, the challenge is accepting the fact that there is a major problem. That problem can only be eased off when we all fight temptation, and stay on course with a change in mindset. Maybe then, as the joint statement is keen to realise, we just might get the best chance to make changes needed for Fijians to prevent these life-threatening diseases.

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