Representatives from seventeen Pacific Island countries are currently meeting in Nadi to address childhood obesity in the region.

The Forum on Pacific Ending Childhood Obesity (Pacific ECHO) Network in Nadi was this morning opened by Minister for Health and Medical Services, Dr Ifereimi Waqainabete today where he reminded participants on the need to make tangible advancements towards eliminating this epidemic.

“We need to make concrete progress on this issue which is not only a problem in one or two of the Pacific states but is an issue for all Pacific Island countries,” he said.

The Forum is being attended by over 45 participants, including representatives from 17 Pacific Island Countries and territories, technical agencies, and academics from regional Universities, development partners and civil society representatives.

The two-day forum which will see plenary discussions, interactive tasks and creative group work exercises in the Network’s priority areas.

The Pacific Research Centre for the Prevention of Obesity and Non-Communicable Diseases (C-POND), at the Fiji National University’s (FNU’s) College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences (CMNHS), identified as the Secretariat for the Network, is organising this meeting.

Dean CMNHS, Dr William May said “Childhood obesity is a growing problem in the Pacific Islands – it affects the health and wellbeing of children and increases their risk of diabetes and heart disease in later life.”

“The ambition of the Network is to stimulate and support collective action in four prioritised areas: physical activity promotion, reducing children’s exposure to the marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages, the promotion and evaluation of fiscal policies such as taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages and child obesity surveillance,” Dr May said.

According to Dr May, the Pacific ECHO Network was established by Ministries of Health and their partners in the Pacific, in line with the healthy island vision of a Pacific where ‘Children are nurtured in body and mind’.

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