The major causes for the dramatic rates of overweight and obesity in the Pacific Islands are:
A person’s food choice is affected by diverse factors at multiple levels. Globalization, urbanization and climate change are affecting availability and access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food. Policies relating to agriculture, the environment, trade and health have multiple impacts an food prices, local food production, the extent of dependence on imported food, nutritional standards and advertising / labelling practices for food. And at the population or community level, social determinants and the media environment influence food awareness and the perceived acceptability and/or attractiveness of particular food choices.
The increasing reliance on imported food, the decline in local food production (and loss of traditional knowledge!) and the shift in food preferences towards convenient, cheap but nutritionally inferior foods are threats to the healt status of Pacific people.Over the last decades, consumption of local vegetables, fruits and root crops and fresh fish has decreased while the consumption of mutton flaps, fatty turkey tails, white bread, deep fried food and sugary soft drinks has risen. Coupled with a lack of nutritional awareness and understanding, this trend is extremely unhealthy. Meanwhile, imported foods comprise between 30 and 90 percent of all foods eaten in the Pacific (SPC, 2002).
Overeating during communal gatherings is common and the majority of people still accept the notion of “big is beautiful”.
A sedentary lifestyle, less farming and fishing, the use of cars for transport and hardly any extra exercise lead do minimal physical activity level, i.e. minimal energy expenditure.
Attitudes like 'the least possible effort' are widespread (car use, lift use!). Motivation to change is low, cultural gender roles put special expectations on women and hinder them from leisure time physical activities.
The social environment must be addressed - footpaths, safe roads for bicycle use and walking, gyms, establishment of social sport groups etc and family activities can help in increasind activitiy levels of Pacific islanders.
Obesity is so common in some islands that is appears to be normal.
Drastic health consequences will affect the individual, the family and the island's economy.