As a testament to the urgent need for effectively tackling the non-communicable diseases (NCDs) crisis in the Pacific, the United States sent two high level speakers to this week’s inaugural Pacific NCD Summit in Tonga. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Thomas Novotny, who is leading the U.S. delegation, spoke at a session earlier today on healthy setting approaches to NCDs. Dr. Novotny is accompanied by Ebony Andrews, Director of Sports Initiatives and Digital Communications for President Obama’s Council on Fitness Sports and Nutrition. She spoke yesterday at a separate session about preventing NCDs by encouraging active lifestyles and nutritious eating habits among youth.
The summit is jointly organized by the Government of Tonga and the Pacific Community (SPC) and attended by several heads of state, health ministers from 14 Pacific countries, and high-level delegates from Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, the World Health Organization, and the World Bank.
During his remarks, Dr. Novotny announced that the U.S. government will be sponsoring a Pacific-wide exchange program focused on obesity, nutrition, and NCDs this coming fall. The exchange will be part of the U.S. State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), and it will send participants on a 10-day visit to the United States to learn effective ways of encouraging NCD prevention among youth. This new initiative recognizes both the significant consequence that NCDs are having on the economies and healthcare systems of the Pacific and the SPC’s decision to make this topic a priority for the region.