Finance and Trade

Poor nutrition and reduced physical activity are leading causes of the current Non- Communicable Disease (NCD) crisis in the Pacific Islands as we move swiftly away from traditional lifestyles towards a market and services economy. In the Pacific Islands, diet and the economy are intrinsically linked in relation to the causes, consequences and solutions of the NCD problem.

In July 2014, Economic and Health Ministers from around the Pacific held a joint forum to discuss this relationship. During the forum the Pacific NCD Roadmap was presented to the ministers which outlines the current economic costs of NCDs and how their prevalence already undermines social and economic development in the Islands.

The report identified that in many Pacific Island countries and territories, the costs of treating NCDs take up more than 50% of the total health budget. In one Pacific Island country, treating one diabetic patient is equal to the average cost of treating 76 other people. Only 1.3% of the population can be treated with insulin before the total annual drug budget is exhausted. In another country, dialysis to treat kidney failure cost just under USD 40,000 per patient per year in 2010–2011, or more than 12 times the Gross National Income (GNI) per capita. Disability resulting from NCDs, including amputation and blindness, affects the productive members of Pacific communities, contributes to poverty and strains national budgets, taking a toll on individuals, families and economies.

Regional data on trade and consumption patterns highlights the association between imported foods high in unhealthy fat, sugar and salt and obesity. Yet countries are repeatedly compelled by various trade agreements to further reduce import barriers which make processed foods which are even more accessible. In fact, trade agreements have already made imported food cheaper than locally grown food in many countries.

The good news is the burden of NCDs can be reduced with immediate and urgent action by governments and communities and the much needed support of development partners. As a result of the forum the Economic and Health ministers committed to these 5 actions to develop country-specific roadmaps to address NCDs:

  1. Strengthening tobacco control by an incremental increase in excise duties to 70% of the retail price of cigarettes over the medium term;
  2. Consider an increase in taxation of alcohol products as a way of reducing harmful alcohol consumption
  3. Considering policies that reduce consumption of local and imported food and drink products that are high in sugar, salt and fat content and directly linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other NCDs in the Pacific through targeted preventative measures, taxes and better regulation
  4. Improving the efficiency and impact of the existing health budget by reallocating scarce health resources to targeted primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, including through the Package of Essential Non Communicable Disease Interventions of ‘best buys’
  5. Strengthening the evidence base for better investment planning and programme effectiveness to ensure interventions work as intended and provide value for money

The Economic and Health Ministers also commit to facilitate other multi-sectoral strategies, as described in the NCD Roadmap, as appropriate. This included a joint strategy to urge exporting countries to introduce policies and regulations that promote healthy food and drink products and restricting export and ‘dumping’ of such sub-standard and unhealthy food and drink products in the Pacific.

Moving forward Ministries of Finance and Economic Planning have a particularly strategic role to play by ensuring that scarce resources from Government, development partners, and other stakeholders are allocated to best use and can be sustained. Most Pacific Islands are caught in a pincer movement: rapidly rising NCD related health costs but only modest prospects for overall economic growth and revenue generation. They also have the important role of setting tax policy to discourage consumption of unhealthy products such as tobacco, alcohol and sugar sweetened beverages.

To see more on the Pacific NCD Roadmap and the new Pacific NCD Partnership click here.

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“Addressing NCDs is critical for global public health, but it will also be good for the economy; for the environment; for the global public good in the broadest sense. If we come together to tackle NCDs, we can do more than heal individuals – we can safeguard our very future.”
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, United Nations General Assembly, 19 September 2011


NCD Roadmap Report Image

Read the full NCD Roadmap Report


Menu of Options

Click here to see the menu of options for addressing NCDs by Ministries of Trade, Finance and Economic Planning and Customs and Excise


Best Buy Inventions

WHOs Best Buys for NCD prevention. See the full break down here


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