Alcohol, tobacco, diet and lack of exercise still threats to Tongan health, says report

Most Tongans want their government to regulate the sale of unhealthy food, according to a new report from the Ministry of Health.

The report is based on a Ministry survey on people’s attitudes towards non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in 2011-2012.

The most common non-communicable diseases in Tonga are heart diseases, with cancer, diabetes and respiratory diseases making up the rest.

They survey found that alcohol, tobacco, poor diet and lack of exercise remain major threats to Tongan health.

Nearly everybody surveyed said people could take action to prevent non-communicable diseases.

Most people agreed that non-communicable diseases were common and increasing in Tonga.

They also said their families wanted them to be more physically active.

However, just over a third of people said they did not think smoking put them at risk.

“The survey results show that although there is high awareness of the health burden of NCDs, more work is required to ensure that our community has adequate information on the risk factors and health impacts of NCDs,” Tonga’s Director for Health Dr Siale ‘Akau’ola, said.

Australian High Commissioner to Tonga  Brett Aldam said raising awareness of NCD risk factors was a global challenge.

He said the survey results would be used to help fight the causes of non-communicable diseases in Tonga. Australia has supported the Ministry of Health’s work in this area for the past six years, contributing more than Aus$8 million (TP$14 million) in total.

More than 2000 people aged between 25 and 64 living throughout the kingdom took part.

It was the first of its kind in the kingdom and was partly funded through a TP$200,000 (NZ$123,000) grant from Australia.

The survey measured people’s knowledge, attitudes and practices towards diseases caused by these products.

The Tongan survey results were announced on July 5 during the celebrations for His Majesty, King Tupou VI’s birthday. 

Deaths

According to 2008 figures, non-communicable diseases account for near three quarters of all deaths in Tonga.

According to a recent World Bank Survey, Pacific islands governments face the prospect of having to pay for potentially expensive treatments for illnesses like heart diseases and diabetes through public health systems that are already operating with tight budgets.

The main points

  • Alcohol, tobacco, poor diet and lack of exercise are major threats to Tongan health according to a new report from the Ministry of Health.
  • The report is based on a two year survey on non-communicable diseases throughout the kingdom.
  • Nearly everybody surveyed supported regulations controlling the sale of unhealthy food, but a third said they did not consider tobacco a risk.
  • However, most people said their families wanted them to be more physically active.

For more information

Hala fononga ki ha Tonga mo’ui lelei/Path to Good Health (Tongan Ministry of Health/DFAT)

Tonga Health Promotion Foundation

Kau Mai Tonga Main TV Ad

Commonwealth Health Online: Tonga

The Economic Costs of Non-communicable Diseases in the Pacific Islands (Council for International Development)

Reducing the incidence of non-communicable diseases in Tonga (UNDP)

Results of Ministry of Health NCD survey 2011-2012

Support regulations against unhealthy/fatty foods

97 percent

Agree that individuals can take action to prevent NCDs

96 percent

Agree that NCDs are common and increasing in Tonga

93 per cent

Reported that their families supported them to be physically active

90 percent

Did not consider tobacco use to be risk factor for NCDs

35 percent

 

NCD-related deaths in Tonga (2008 figures)

Percentage of total deaths in Tonga caused by cardiovascular diseases

38 percent

Percentage of total deaths in Tonga caused by cancer

Nine percent

Percentage of total deaths in Tonga caused by non-communicable respiratory diseases

Seven percent

Percentage of total deaths in Tonga caused by diabetes

Five percent

Percentage of total deaths in Tonga caused by non-communicable diseases

74 percent

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