NCDs cannot be ignored says Tonga PM

Tonga launches its national NCDs strategy for the next four years. PHOTO: Paula Moimoi Latu/YouTube

Tongan Prime Minister Hu’akavameiliku Siaosi Sovaleni has called for a collective effort to tackle the leading cause of death and disability in Tonga – heart disease, diabetes and some cancers – in a National Non-Communicable Diseases Strategy for 2021-25 launched this week.

The Tonga Health Promotion Foundation says non-communicable diseases (NCDs) need a “a whole-of-government and whole-of-society effort, persevering together to build a better, healthier and happier Tonga.”

The “Tuiaki ‘i he ‘Amanaki ki ha Tonga Mo’ui Lelei-Tonga National Strategy for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases 2021–2025” takes a systems based approach to address NCDs, and equipping people with skills and know the how to make the right choices.

“NCDs impact not just individuals with the disease but also entire families and communities. Empowering people to take ownership of their health and make healthy choices, is crucial through creating supportive environments where healthy choices are easy choices to make or the most common-sense way to live.”

Previous NCD strategies had focused on addressing the four modifiable risk factors of NCDs, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, tobacco smoking and harmful use of alcohol.

“In contrast, the new strategy takes a systems-based approach to address NCDs. A systems approach considers the underlying social, economic, cultural, political and environmental factors, alongside their interactions, consequences and systematic impacts on the four modifiable NCD risk factors and health outcomes,” said Tonga Health.

This is Tonga’s fourth National Strategy for the Prevention and Control of NCDs, which was endorsed by the Government in December 2021. 

PM Sovaleni said Tonga cannot avoid or ignore NCDs.

He said that while a lot of good work has been done, there still needs to be better coordination and improved monitoring and evaluation of what works, and the empowerment of stakeholders and communities through inclusiveness and effective engagement.

“Unless there is collective commitment and investment from every Tongan, man, woman and child, from donor partners, private businesses, churches, communities, non-government organisations, government and leaders, we will continue to witness the unnecessary loss and huge costs due to NCDs.”