Pacific course looks to address alarming life expectancy statistics

Pacific people need to focus more on improving nutrition if they are to reverse the alarming life expectancy statistics which is seeing them dying younger and having higher rates of chronic diseases than all other New Zealanders.

Associate Minister of Health Hon. Jenny Salesa at graduation of the AUT Certificate of Proficiency in Pacific Nutrition course.

The call for greater focus in this area comes as the Associate Minister of Health Hon. Jenny Salesa officially recognises the achievements of this year’s graduates of the AUT Certificate of Proficiency in Pacific Nutrition course.

The Heart Foundation’s Pacific Health Manager Mafi Funaki-Tahifote says this year’s graduates are now ready to join the fight against heart disease.

“The course provides students with hands-on learning and practical nutrition information with a distinctive Pacific ‘flavour’. It’s aimed at supporting New Zealand’s Pacific communities to make better and life-long food choices.

“The course which has been running since 2002, is a very important step forward in terms of improving the cardiac health and life expectancy of our Pacific people.

“Students are taught to develop meals with a reduced amount of saturated fat and a controlled portion of less healthy ingredients. All this is done while still maintaining the great taste and flavours of the food.”

Mafi says cardiovascular disease is the primary cause of death for Pacific people and is significantly higher for this group than for the remainder of the general population.

“Statistics show that 1 in 3 Pacific deaths from heart disease happen between ages 35-65, compared to 1 in 12 for Europeans.”

According to the New Zealand Health Survey 2017/18, 6 out of 10 Pacific adults and 3 out of 10 Pacific children are obese, increasing their risk of developing cardiovascular disease.¹

“It is a serious matter that our Pacific people are dying much younger and the great news is that we can do something about it. Our Pacific communities need to collectively focus on improving what, how much, where and whom we eat with to encourage good, healthy and yet tasty food, and with this graduation a brand-new batch of graduates are now well equipped to go out and spread the healthy lifestyle message.”

Tier 1 statistics 2017/18: New Zealand Health Survey