More Pacific teenagers developing NCDs | Pacific Beat

More Pacific teenagers developing NCDs

More Pacific teenagers developing NCDs

Updated 5 December 2013, 10:40 AEDT

Two years ago at their summit in New Zealand Pacific Forum leaders' declared war on what they described as a common enemy for all Pacific people, NCDs - non-communicable diseases.

That war is high on the agenda at the Youth and Sport Conference in New Caledonia organised by SPC, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.

The event's taking place amid growing concern that more and more young people are developing NCDs.

Type-2 diabetes for example was once described as adult onset diabetes, but many Pacific countries are reporting cases in children as young as 11.

Presenter:Richard Ewart

Speaker:Dr Viliami Puloka, NCD section, Secretariat of the Pacific Community


PULOKA: This is why it's so important because as the youth and the young people make up 20 per cent of the whole Pacific population I think it's about time that they add their voice, their energy and all that to the war against diabetes. 
EWART: So is the rising prevalence of NCDs amongst young people being reflected among the delegates in Noumea? I mean on the one hand are you seeing examples of NCDs amongst the delegates, and on the other just how aware are they of the problem that they need to join together to tackle?
PULOKA: Well most of the young people who joined the conference are quite healthy and still pretty much clean. However you can see a number of participants with weight that will definitely become a problem for them in the future. And also other things beside that, they're smoking, they're drinking, some of them admit to continuing to do that and that's one of the areas we try to influence and give them information to assist them to make decisions on those particular areas. 
EWART: So from your point of view in terms of what you've been saying to the delegates I guess that there's a fine line to be drawn between a call to action if you like and perhaps preaching to young people?
PULOKA: Definitely that's true. And of course the young people don't particularly like to be told. But I think the message that we've been trying to emphasise to them that they make up such a big part of the population and their voice needs to be aired on to what is going on in the society, even the policy decision making, and also the future of what they're doing now. It will come back to them to haunt them in the future. So because a lot of the NCDs, the non-communicable diseases actually the risk factors that contribute to becoming diabetic may come two years later, but it begins now. 
EWART: So what are the young people telling you, what sort of feedback are you getting from them about what they think needs to be done and realistically what they can do?
PULOKA: Well I think one of the interesting things that came out of these discussions is the fact that they didn't say directly but it reinforced the thinking that actually a lot of adult behaviour, a lot of environmental factors that effects or influences their decisions is important. The role modelling that if they see that their teacher or church leaders smoking and they do all those behaviours they also think it's cool to do that, not just from their peers but I think it's interesting to see their linking of them trying to become adult by doing the adult things. And unfortunately many of us adults are not giving them good examples. So that's one message I think that's very important that came out of them from the young people that a lot of their behaviour is actually influenced by the environment they are growing in, much as the behaviour of people but also other commodities that's available, the sweet drinks and all the other stuff that's quite attractive. But it's harmful to their health. 
EWART: So if the young people of the Pacific are going to make the sort of lifestyle changes that most people would like to see, certainly health advocates like yourself would like to see, it's very much not a case of do as we say not as we do, that the older generations have to set an example?
PULOKA: Yes definitely, older generation needs to be heard and although it's difficult for many of us who are older generation because our behaviour is pretty much fixed. But I think we need to share those with the youth and make them think about what might come back to haunt them in the future, learning from the bad habits that we adults have been demonstrating to them.

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