Obesity in the Pacific Islands: A Research Paper

Health Care

Research the instance and effects of obesity in the Pacific Islands (Nauru, Tonga, Samoa, Palau, and Tuvalu). What are the health and economic costs to the governments because of these obesity-related issues?  What strategies, if any, are being implemented in these islands to deal with these obesity-related issues? 

Obesity in the Pacific Islands

While the problem of obesity is often linked to the US, the statistics observed in the Pacific islands present an even dire situation. In fact, the obesity problem is a serious health epidemic here. A range of 50 – 90% of the population in different Pacific Islands is battling overweight issues (Parry, 2010). Countries with soaring obesity rates include Samoa, Nauru, Palau, Tonga, Cook Islands, and Kiribati, among many others. Samoa presents the most acute situation of all the Pacific islands, with about three-quarters of its citizens being overweight (Chapman-Bell, 2017). While the overweight condition may not seem to be much, there are ripple effects that affect the operation of involved governments. Local administrations are forced to bear exorbitant health and economic costs related to obesity (Wate, 2017). Notably, being overweight has been determined to provoke heart disease and diabetes, two expensive-to-treat and killer ailments. Although the problem of obesity seems to be irredeemable, notable anti-obesity strategies are being implemented across the Pacific islands.

Following the obesity trend, governments in the Pacific islands accrue health and economic costs that curtail their service delivery. While the subject region has undergone positive fiscal development in recent history, health concerns are a major barrier for the affected countries to reach their full economic potential. Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart attack, cancer, and diabetes form immense stumbling blocks preventing regional progress. It should be noted that obesity is one of the significant risk factors that aggravate NCDs (Wate, 2017). The increased sickness rates amongst the citizens of the Pacific Islands amount to steep treatment costs for the neighboring regimes to cater to. These expenses are so enormous that the local governments are overwhelmed. For instance, the cost of vital dialysis services for diabetic patients is estimated to be $38,500 per person per year (Chapman-Bell, 2017). Yet, governments have to battle the steep costs to reduce amputation cases.

There is a thin line separating obesity and high healthcare costs in the Pacific Islands. In any case, the former intensifies the latter. About 70% of the deaths registered in the Pacific island countries are attributed to NCDs. According to Wate (2017), the cost of treating NCDs demands a huge chunk of health expenditure (between 39 – 58%). More patients suffering from NCDs seek health care from already strained hospital facilities. The longer the hospital stay, the higher the cost. In 2002, the expenditure drained in the treatment of NCDs accounted for 8.1%, 19.6%, and 9% of the treatment expenses recorded in Kiribati, Tonga, and Vanuatu nations, respectively (Wate, 2017). In particular, diabetes contributed to super high annual costs in the same year. In reality, these skyrocketing health costs can significantly constrain or even deplete government budgets, thus negatively impacting sustainability.

It is often argued that a healthy nation is an economically vibrant republic. Healthy citizens are better positioned to work to their full potential in building the-nation initiatives. On the other hand, sick and inactive people lying in hospital beds are hardly productive. Rather than participate in generating wealth, they only constrain the national health budgets by demanding regular healthcare services. For instance, about 70% of Cook Island residents are physically inactive (Anderson, 2013). With rampant obesity rates in the Pacific Islands, even the youth, the most productive demographic, is affected. In the Cook Islands, over half of adolescents suffer from the undesirable condition of obesity (Wate, 2017). Fewer citizens can be relied upon for revenue generation. Therefore, governments in the affected islands are compelled to overstretch their limited budgets to cater to the rising treatment costs. If the current trends prevail, the economies here will be expected to grow slowly.

There is no doubt that obesity is a major health concern plaguing the island nations in the south pacific. Following the high obesity-related costs that governments in the Pacific islands incur, various strategies have been implemented to curtail the overweight detriment. It behooves to note that the prevalence of obesity in this region is blamed on the distorted eating habits which came about in the last 5 decades (Wate, 2017). Locals have abandoned their traditional diets for imported processed foods. The Pacific Community (SPC) is one of the organizations committed to alleviating obesity cases in the Pacific islands. One of the strategies it adopts is to tax processed foods to discourage their consumption. The tax collected is also channeled to other health programs, such as subsidizing vegetables and fruits (Chapman-Bell, 2017).

The Pacific Obesity Prevention in Communities project is another initiative aligned with the purpose of tackling the increased obesity rates in the Pacific islands. This program intends to avert the increasing cases of obesity among adolescents. Community-based interventions were launched to promote physical activity, healthy eating, and normal weight in Tonga, Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji (Swinburn, 2011). Even with the launch of these capacity-building schemes, the Island nations located in the south pacific still record lofty obesity rates. Moving forward, more sophisticated anti-obesity approaches need to be formulated and implemented. Solution-oriented research efforts should also be strengthened. Otherwise, if nothing is done to address the subject problem, the Pacific islands may be on the verge of an economic and health decline.


Anderson, I. (2013). The economic costs of non-communicable diseases in the Pacific Islands: A rapid stocktake of the situation in Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu.

Chapman-Bell, P. (2017, January 11). Tackling obesity in the Pacific Islands. Retrieved November 14, 2018, from https://www.cta.int/pt/article/tackling-obesity-in-the-pacific-islands-sid0f9c9bd02-e3ea-4177-b179-a307093fc1eb

Parry, J. (2010). Pacific islanders pay a heavy price for abandoning their traditional diet. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 88(7), 484-485.

Swinburn, B. A., Millar, L., Utter, J., Kremer, P., Moodie, M., Mavoa, H., … Scragg, R. (2011). The Pacific Obesity Prevention in Communities project: project overview and methods. Obesity Reviews, 12, 3-11.

Wate, J. (2017, August 10). Obesity in Pacific Island countries and territories: How big a problem is it? | Asia Pathways. Retrieved November 14, 2018, from https://www.asiapathways-adbi.org/2017/08/obesity-in-pacific-island-countries-and-territories-how-big-a-problem-is-it/


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The essay was very good, well written, structured well and was really helpful, I will certainly make you one of my regular writers.

Published On: 06-03-2018

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