PM raises eyebrows with "weight loss competition" proposal

Tonga's Prime Minister'Akilisi Pohiva has challenged other Pacific Island leaders to participate in a year-long

Tonga's Prime Minister'Akilisi Pohiva has challenged other Pacific Island leaders to participate in a year-long

About half of the forum's membership has imposed taxes on sugary beverages, but Colin Tukuitonga, Director General of The Pacific Community, a public health group, told RNZ Pacific that small nations will have to gear up to fight lobbyists from the sugar industry, who he said had copied big tobacco's old playbook.

"We should all get together for a weight-loss competition, for an entire year", he told the Samoa Observer in an interview published this week. With its white sand beaches, handsome waters and lush vegetation, it's a place many long to escape to for serenity.

The region is not alone in struggling with obesity, and going by the 2016 World Factbook, the United States is not doing much better than some Pacific islands.

So at this year's summit, Prime Minister Pohiva plans to ask his fellow leaders to set an example.

"It is not about who loses the most kilos but in order to shake off the weight, you must eat light and having that healthy mentality will go a long way".

"The non communicable disease [rates] and child obesity has everything to do with our eating habits and our lifestyle and it is complex issue when it comes to our Pacific people", the prime minister said.

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"Once the leaders are adapting to that mindset they would be determined to get their people on the same aspect and go from there".

Mr Pohiva recently cautioned Pacific Island nations to "slow down" asking China for loans, and recounted the experiences of his own country which now owes the Chinese government $160 million in debts and had its request for a deferral of repayment and conversion into grants knocked back by Beijing.

"And with island leaders, we talk and talk, yet initiatives are not making an impact". She reportedly said that World Health Organization data shows that in children between the ages of 5 and 19, at least 20 percent were obese in 10 of the countries belonging to the forum.

The replacement of traditional nutrient-rich food in favour of imported processed food has been blamed for the Pacific's weight problem.

Pohiva expressed dismay at the poor impact of the initiatives now trying to tackle the issue in the Pacific and said he hoped the weight-loss competition might set a good example for people to follow.

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