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Opening of the World Diabetes Day 2017.

November 8, 2017       Sukuna Park, Suva.

The Assistant Minister for Health and Medical Services, Hon. Alexander O’Conor;

The Assistant Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Hon. Veena Bhatnagar;

The Chairman of Diabetes Fiji, Dr Wahid Khan;

The National Advisor on Wellness, Dr. Isimeli Tukana;

Distinguished Guests;

Ladies, gentlemen, girls and boys.

Ni sa Bula Vinaka, Namaskar, Aslaam Alaykum, Ni Hao, Noa’ia e Mauri and Good Morning to you all.

Thank you for inviting me to launch the World Diabetes Day 2017 programme.

I have made a point to make myself available as much as possible when it comes to engagements involving the health and wellbeing of our people. This is largely because I am genuinely keen to see our people live longer and happier lives as opposed to shortened lives or lives of struggle with a scourge that is actually within our own ability to control. This is why I accepted the additional role of lead advocate and champion in our national campaign to eliminate Non-Communicable Diseases.  It is also why I am trying to lead by example in exercising daily and planting my own root crops and vegetables in my backyard.

I am told that diabetes is the leading Non-Communicable Disease in Fiji. And that Fiji has the second highest rate of deaths from diabetes in the world! This is very alarming. But what is more alarming is that our people are neglecting the fact that diabetes, like all other NCDs, is controllable. It is within our ability to choose a healthy lifestyle. To eat fresh and healthy foods instead of processed foods. To stop smoking, to reduce our consumption of alcohol and yaqona and exercise daily.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to note that the Chairman of Diabetes Fiji, Dr. Wahid Khan, will be speaking to us as well later on this morning.  I will therefore leave all the medical jargon and statistics on diabetes for him to share and simplify for us.

Ladies and gentlemen, as the Champion and Lead Advocate in our national campaign against the prevalence of NCD’s in society, I deem it an honour and great pleasure to be with you this morning to launch the World Diabetes Day, which I understand falls on 14 November each year.  The observance of the day started in 1991 by the International Diabetes Federation and the World Health Organisation, in response to the rapid rise in diabetes around the world. The Day comprises numerous activities including health screenings and lectures, among others, that are all aimed at creating greater awareness about diabetes and its causes. There are also campaigns on how to manage diabetes. This year’s theme is “Women and Diabetes - our right to a healthy future”.

The focus this year is on promoting three key messages:

1. That all women with diabetes require affordable and equitable access to care and education to better manage their diabetes and improve their health outcomes;

2. Screening for Type 2 diabetes is important to modify its course and reduce the risk of complications; and

3. Screening for diabetes complications is an essential part of managing Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes

Ladies and gentlemen, I am very pleased to be part of this national campaign to control and reduce diabetes in Fiji.  I am equally keen to work with the appropriate Medical Authorities and other stakeholders and see a reduction in diabetes-related amputations, which presently stands at about one in every eight hours. For now, I applaud Diabetes Fiji for the tremendous work that it had started in recent years to educate the public on diabetes and to help those with diabetes to manage the ailment.

I also thank all the non-government organisations, faith-based organisations, corporate bodies and government departments for organising and supporting the campaign to eliminate NCDs including the control and management of diabetes. I wish to applaud Government’s efforts to develop strategies that will help eliminate diabetes and NCDs. Included in these is the decision to increase the taxation of Sugar Sweetened Beverages, alcohol and tobacco. 

Government is also reducing taxation on glucose testing machines and has started a free medicine scheme and extended the opening hours of government pharmacies. The latter are more towards the treatment of diabetes and NCDs.

In launching the 2017 World Diabetes Day, I wish to encourage all our people to take proactive and preventative measures to avoid NCDs altogether. We can do this by taking ownership of our own health and choosing to live healthier and happier lives. We must do this for ourselves, for our children and for Fiji.

To the Ministry of Health and Medical Services and the Chairman of Diabetes Fiji, Dr. Wahid Khan and your hardworking team, I would like to wish you well in your work and future endeavours.

May God bless our beloved nation, Fiji.

  Vinaka vakalevu, Dhanyavaad, Sukria, Xie Xie, Faiek’sia, and Thank you.