The Fiji National University (FNU) is focusing its intellectual resources on tackling the problem of Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs).
 
FNU Vice Chancellor Professor Nigel Healey, while speaking during the opening of the three-day Pacific Health Governance Research Network (PHGRN) Workshop II underway in Nadi, said climate change and health is also central to the work of the University.
 
Prof Healey highlighted five most pressing problems in the Pacific:
          Health Security;
          Health Systems and Universal Health Coverage;
          Climate Change and Health;
          Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH); and
          Non-Communicable Diseases
 
“NCDs, notably obesity and the related conditions, heart disease of type II diabetes, have reached crisis levels in the Pacific, where they are the leading cause of premature death,” said VC Healey.
 
“For Fiji, with a population of less than one million, the most startling statistic is that we amputate a limb due to diabetes-related complications every 12 hours,” Prof Healey added.
 
Vice Chancellor Healey quoted a study by the University of Washington published in the Lancet in 2014 which shows that 51% of all Fijian adults were clinically overweight or obese – with a body mass index of 25 or above. The report highlighted a worrying gender imbalance, with 42% of men and 61% classified as overweight or obese. 
 
“We know that in Fiji most orthopaedic survey is related to NCDs. The University is trying to focus our intellectual resources on tackling this problem,” said VC Healey.
 
“It is clear that reversing the pandemic of NCDs requires fundamental changes in lifestyle – more exercise, and much lower salt, fat and sugar intake – as well as earlier interventions and better treatments for those who develop NCDs.”
 
“These call for research which is generally multidisciplinary,” he highlighted.
Prof Healey said the second critical area was climate change. 
 
“What the world’s policymakers decide, climate change is already advanced and being driven by rising levels of greenhouse gases that will continue to have a lagged effect throughout his century.”
 
“Pacific islands like Fiji are suffering from rising sea levels, coastal erosion and the salination of low-lying areas.”
 
“We need to find ways of adapting our medical and emergency services to make us more resilient in the face of this growing threat,” he added.
 
FNU’s College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences in partnership with Pacific Community (SPC) and University of Queensland (UQ) are hosting the PHGRN Workshop II.
 
Dr Owain Williams, Senior Research Fellow at UQ, said FNU was one of the leading academic institutions in the Pacific and a key leading organisation in the PHGRN.
 
“As one of the Pacific region’s principal training institutions for the next generation of clinical and public health professionals, FNU’s involvement is key to ensuring the next generation is active in research related to the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) over the next decade,” Dr Williams said.
 
According to Dr Williams, the PHGRN was building a network to create spaces for research partnerships between Pacific researchers, stakeholders, Australian and international counterparts.
 
Dr Williams also highlighted that there were two basic outcomes from the workshop.
 
“Those attending will leave better informed about research, policy and programs that relate to pivotal areas of the SDG agenda in the Pacific, including: climate change and health; health systems and universal health coverage; non-communicable diseases and food systems; water, sanitation and hygiene; and health security.”
 
“Second, it will provide opportunity for attendees to discuss research partnerships and projects with counterparts and interested stakeholders, utilising a modified Talanoa method to facilitate broader engagement of attendees.”
 
The three-day Pacific Health Governance Research Network (PHGRN) Workshop II is being held at Tanoa International Hotel, Nadi.
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