7 August 2019
Solomon Islands: Increasing population demands significant investment in preventative health measures.
In 2005 a UNICEF report had read:
“The major challenge facing Solomon Islands is the high cost and administrative difficulty of delivering services to a largely subsistence population that is dispersed across many islands that have minimal infrastructure and transport links. The concentration of administration, economic activity and services in the capital, Honiara, have resulted in high levels of rural to urban migration that have overburdened urban services and fostered tensions between groups. Despite being more developed than its surrounds, Honiara’s economy is small and slow growing, and cannot provide anywhere near enough employment opportunities to meet the demand.”
In 2019 one might say little has changed and the increasing population, estimated to be over 700,00 when the next Census figures are released, will put added pressure on the already struggling health services and on the National Referral Hospital (NRH) in particular.
Medical doctors at the NRH have constantly warned about obesity, or at least poor diet, which has been a significant contributor to non-communicable diseases.
However, obesity is only one of many risk factors for cardiovascular disease mortality – others include smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
The success of public health intervention on cardiovascular diseases, cancer and rheumatic heart disease will decrease as the population continues to rise and exacerbates all the factors highlighted in UNICEF’s executive summary, I have outlined.
Overcrowding in Honiara’s burgeoning informal settlements could heighten the risk of developing rheumatic heart disease, particular among the children living there.
Failure by the Solomon Islands government to make significant investment in preventative health measures, including measures aimed at increasing physical activity, improving diet and reducing obesity, will have very serious health issues and threaten future gains in life expectancy.