10 Jun 2014

Tonga to combat obesity

5:54 pm on 10 June 2014

The Tongan government says it is overhauling its policies in a bid to deal with what it says is the biggest killer in the region - obesity.

The Global Burden of Disease Study shows half of the adult population in Tonga is obese, making it the country with the highest proportion of obesity in the world.

The chief executive officer for the Tonga Ministry of Health, Siale Akauola says the government is committed to turning the situation around.

Dr Akauola says it plans to appoint a secretariat, who will specifically monitor the outcomes of projects fighting obesity, alongside the Non-Communicable Diseases Committee.

He says different government ministries will be tasked with fighting issues related to obesity.

"The Ministry of Agriculture will deal with food, the Ministry of Internal Affairs will deal with community participation, the Ministry of Education will deal with childhood obesity, will look at ways to support young people learn about good eating habits. The resources will be more efficiently utilised, cut across a whole lot of people. With that reform, we will slowly, slowly see improvement."

Siale Akauola says the government has already increased tax on some unhealthy foods, but plans to apply a fat or sugar tax more widely.