30 April 2019
Cardiovascular risk factors and measures needed in the Solomon Islands to tackle non-communicable diseases (NCDs)
In Australia the New Heart Foundation data, released to mark Heart Week, reveals that more than two-thirds of Australian adults have at least three risk factors for heart disease.
The data revealed 7 million men over the age of 18 (76.5 per cent) and 6 million women (62 per cent) have three or more risk factors for heart disease.
Heart Foundation chief medical adviser Professor Garry Jennings said the numbers were shocking.
“This is alarming, because we know that the more risk factors you have, the more likely you are to have a heart attack or stroke,” Prof. Jennings said.
Other disturbing survey findings on individual risk factors included:
- 92 per cent of Australian adults ate too few vegetables
- 83 per cent were not active enough
- 67 per cent were overweight or obese
- 23 per cent had measured high blood pressure.
Prof. Jennings said the theme of Heart Week was about encouraging Australians to visit their doctor for a Medicare-funded heart health check.
Source: Your Life Choices
In the Solomon Islands accessing a doctor for a medical check-up isn’t as easy as it is in Australia but yet WHO surveys have indicated many Solomon Islanders are at risk from non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
The risk factors include smoking, alcohol use, physical inactivity, obesity, high blood pressure, a raised level of blood glucose or cholesterol, and an unbalanced diet.
The percentage of Solomon Islanders affected by NCDs is expected to rise substantially in the coming decades if action is not taken. The main causes of the projected NCD increase are high rates of population growth; a growing over 60-years segment of the population; and behavioral risk factors, such as those I have mentioned but, especially including tobacco use, lack of physical activity, and unhealthy diet.
Information from a WHO survey conducted as far back as 2005-2006 in cooperation with the Solomon Islands Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) provided an important platform for the development and implementation of strategic plans and programs to address the growing epidemic of NCDs at home.
The action plan then outlined to control and for the prevention of NCDs recommended these measures (quote)
Strengthen tobacco controls through incremental increases in excise duties.
Improve the efficiency and impact of the health budget by reallocating scarce health resources to targeted primary and secondary prevention measures for cardiovascular disease and diabetes, including through the Package of Essential NCD interventions of “best buys.”
Reduce consumption of local and imported food and drink products that are high in sugar, salt, and fat content through policies such as targeted preventative measures, taxes, and better regulation.
Strengthen the evidence base to enable better investment planning and program effectiveness, thereby ensuring that interventions work as intended and provide value for money.
The intervention measures then outlined were considered to be essential ‘first steps’ in tackling NCDs but I suspect not all, or any of the “measures” were adopted by successive Solomon Islands governments since 2006.
The seriousness of NCDs and the growing numbers of local people suffering from diabetes and cardiovascular illnesses, including heart complications, stroke and high blood pressure surely requires urgent attention being given to the health threat in or midst and I would urge the incoming SIG to take the necessary action before many more Solomon Islanders, young and old succumb to serious illnesses that are essentially preventable.