The prevalence of obesity worldwide almost tripled between 1975 and 2016. It has been described as a “time bomb” that, if left unaddressed, will have severe health ramifications. Obesity rates have risen faster in the South Pacific than anywhere else over the last 30 years and are expected to continue to increase for the foreseeable future. The importation of fatty, cheap cuts of meat is often blamed for the high prevalence of obesity in most Pacific Island countries. While those products are likely to be responsible for some of the problem, it is simplistic to suggest that they are the only cause of high obesity rates in the Pacific region.
- Rising levels of obesity is one of the greatest health challenges in the South Pacific. As it is partially caused by the food available to Pacific Islanders, it is also a food security issue.
- The large proportion of the Pacific Islander population with obesity poses large public health risks that, in turn, affect social and economic outcomes.
- Food imports are not the only cause of high obesity rates. A lack of nutritional education, limited land to produce healthy food, the commonly held belief that, often highly processed, imported food is superior to local goods and limited access to health care are an equal, if not greater, cause of obesity in the region.
- Regional food policies need to address all of the factors that contribute to obesity if they are to reduce the high rates of obesity experienced in Pacific Island communities.