Representatives from 14 Pacific nations are meeting in Brisbane this week to look at ways sport can be used to fight diseases like diabetes and obesity which have become leading causes of death and disability throughout the Pacific.
Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Richard Marles, said representatives at the Healthy Islands through Sport forum will be discussing how they can work together and use sport as a tool to improve the health behaviours of people in the Pacific.
"Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like diabetes and obesity place a burden on local health systems and reduce productivity and household income. Sport can play a powerful role by increasing physical activity and its profile and popularity can raise awareness of healthy behaviours such as better diets, less alcohol and stopping smoking," Mr Marles said.
The Australian Government is committed to helping Pacific nations tackle these serious health problems through a four year program of support which includes expanding the existing Australian Sports Outreach Program.
"With a strong focus on increasing physical activity existing sports programs will deliver vital health messages," Mr Marles said.
"We are already seeing results. For example, in Vanuatu, the Australian Sports Outreach Program helped communities on Aniwa Island plan and deliver football and volleyball activities, contributing to a 50 per cent reduction in obesity among participants between 2009 and 2010.
"This forum is an opportunity to learn from the collective knowledge and expertise of each nation and foster innovative ideas," Mr Marles said.
The Healthy Islands through Sport forum is an initiative of the Australian Government, Secretariat of Pacific Communities (SPC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). The three day forum will bring together senior officials from Ministries of Health and Sport and will include sessions aimed at developing strategies to tackle NCDs in each country.
Following the event, Australia will assist health and sport sectors in Pacific island countries to take joint action to reduce the prevalence and burden of NCDs in their region.
"By working together we will ultimately see a healthier, more active Pacific region," Mr Marles said.
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