21 Mar 2011

Deaths in first two months of the year alarm American Samoa lawmakers

6:33 am on 21 March 2011

The number of deaths recorded by the main hospital in the first two months of this year has alarmed lawmakers in American Samoa.

Hospital officials told a House hearing that there were 19 deaths in January, and 36 in February for a territory with a population of about 70,000.

Vice Speaker of the House of Representatives Iaulualo Faafetai that this is more than the number of people who died in the 2009 Tsunami.

He called the staggering death rate a disaster.

Chief Medical Officer of LBJ Hospital, Taulapapa Dr. Alo Anesi says 70% of the deaths were from complications from non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, heart conditions and other life style illnesses.

American Samoa has a 49% rate of diabetes, the highest in the South Pacific.

The head of the Diabetes Control Programme at the Department of Health, Dr. Faiese Roby, says the unit is only allocated US$58,000, which also funds salaries, so there is little money left to carry out awareness and education programs.

She's established a community coalition to help spread the word about diabetes.

She said leaders need to enact policies that can help control diabetes and suggests fatty foods such as turkey tails and lamb flaps be banned.