Retired Public Health Nurse, has hold positions of Director General of Ministry of Health (2002 -2008) –Director of Public Health (1999 -2002) during this period was Member and elected Chair of the WHO Executive Board. Previous positions held from 1980 -1998 included: Nursing Educator; Principal Community Health Services and Manager HIV/AIDS. Hold a Masters in Tropical Health (1993-1994) Herston Medical College –University of Queensland.
Since 2012 to date recruited by WHO to assist the Ministry of Health (Health Promotion and NCD Programs) for capacity building and implementation of Primary Health Care –Healthy Islands Concept and implementation of NCD Package of Essential Interventions (PEN)
CTA: Vanuatu, as most of other Pacific islands, is affected by the impact of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs). 70% of all deaths at VCH are NCD-related. How do you explain this situation? What are the policies in place to combat NCDs?
The major problem is the knowledge about NCD and its risks factors is not well known to majority of ni-Vanuatu. The diet of the people have changed rapidly as rice is almost replacing the root crops, people go for fast food, and eat more processed food daily. The country and its people may be also subject to some fast development without being prepared of its consequences –for example more buses in town encourages people to take bus to work, school, town rather than walking. Kava bars contributes to abuse of cigarette smoking, alcohol and disturbs diet. MOH with its Partners are vigorously campaigning about NCDs but it will take sometimes for people to realise that it is everyone’s business to address it let alone the understanding of the complications that the NCD risk factors can lead to. Further the time it will take for individual change of lifestyle is yet to happen
The MOH has launched between April to June this year three National Policies and Strategic Plans (2016 -2020) namely: NCD and NCD Roadmap; Nutrition and Mental Health all inter related policies to combat NCDs in the country. All
What are the actions the Ministry is taking to promote healthier food and improve diets in collaboration with other Minsitries? Do they include support to local producers?
As mentioned above we now have a new Nutrition Policy and dietary guidelines. An established Nutrition Working Group will help to facilitate promotion of healthy diets with the support of key Ministries of the Government (MOE; Finance; Agriculture and Trade) and engaging with key partners and stakeholders. While the MOH might not have a direct support to local producers it is however important to mention that the Agriculture sector has been advocating and assisting farmers in various ways to promote food security.
Do you believe that stronger food and safety standards compliance and increased incentives for safer and healthier local production could increase market access for export and tourism markets?
Yes – MOH conducts Food Safety training for market vendors and women/ men handling food in kava bars, road markets…however the need to enforce safety standards is a challenge. Perhaps the Government to consider a robust policy and set standards on ‘healthy local produce’ may be key to enhance export and tourism markets
Do you see Chefs as partners in promoting local healthy food and attracting more tourists to Vanuatu?
We have some very good Chefs and definitely they are crucial partners to promote and add value to our local food and dishes
Do you support education programmes which feature the various dimensions in the use of local food and include their nutritional value?
Very much Yes and I think the APTC is an excellent teaching program and should be engaged to produce varieties of local menu and especially teaching about the nutritional value of each type of local food
 The four major risks of NCD are heart diseases, diabetes, respiratory diseases and cancers all commonly referred to as lifestyle disease caused by “unhealthy” eating habits and lack of physical exercise. High Blood Pressure, one of the major risk factors of NCD, is also referred to as the silent killer.
Diet — Adopting a healthy lifestyle throughout the life course with emphasis on balanced nutrition, eating five servings of fruit and vegetables every day, decreasing saturated and total fat intake, such as by eating low-fat products. Salt — Reducing salt intake; consuming less than 5 grams of salt per day from all sources.