Tonga's health minister appointed to global NCD commission

Tonga’s health minister has been appointed to an independent global commission on non-communicable diseases which the World Health Organisation (WHO) hopes will help combat the epidemic.

Tonga Minister of Health Dr Saia Piukala. Photo: RNZ/Daniela Maoate-Cox

As one of the commissioners, Saia Piukala, will help raise awareness of the issues and experiences of NCDs in the Pacific.

The Commission was launched by the WHO last month and comprises heads of state, ministers, leaders in health and development and entrepreneurs.

Of the 37 members in the Western Pacific Region, Tonga and Singapore have had commissioners appointed.

The region has some of the highest NCD rates with cardiovascular and chronic respiratory diseases, diabetes and cancers accounting for more than 80 percent of deaths there.

Statistics also showed that approximately one in five Tongans has diabetes.

Dr Piukala said his country had taken some positive steps to reduce the burden of NCDs, but much more needed to be done.

He said he looked forward to being part of the global discussion to come up with practical solutions that could be applied in the Pacific.

The new Commission will provide recommendations to the WHO and the UN General Assembly Meeting on NCDs that will take place in New York this year.

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