Obesity in the Pacific

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Obesity in the Pacific is a growing health concern with health officials stating that it is one of the leading causes of preventable deaths in the Pacific Rim. According to Forbes, Pacific island nations and associated states make up the top seven on a 2007 list of heaviest countries, and eight of the top ten. In all these cases, more than 70% of citizens age 15 and over are obese.[1]

Reasons for this issue include mining operations that have left not much arable land; as a result, much of the local diet is of processed, calorie-dense, imported food such as Spam or corned beef,[2] rather than fresh fish, fruit and vegetables.[3] In addition, cultural factors have been blamed, such as associating a large body size with wealth and power, or changing ways of living, with children leading more sedentary lives.[4]

The problem is leading to increased levels of illness, including diabetes and heart diseases. In the Marshall Islands in 2008 there were 8,000 cases of diabetes in a population of only 53,000.[5] In Fiji, strokes used to be rare in the under 50s, whilst doctors reported that they had become common amongst patients in their 20s and 30s.[5]

The problems are not confined to the small island nations, with Kuwait appearing 8th on the list, United States 9th, New Zealand 17th, and Australia 21st.[1] In Australia, ambulances have been redesigned and equipped with heavier stretchers and larger wheelchairs to take account of the increased weight of the patients they carry.[6]

Weight rank[edit]

World ranking[1] Pacific country  % of overweight persons (age 15 and over)
1. Nauru 94.5
2. Micronesia, Federated States of 91.1
3. Cook Islands 90.9
4. Tonga 90.8
5. Niue 81.7
6. Samoa 80.4
7. Palau 78.4
10. Kiribati 73.6

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Lauren Streib (8 February 2007). "World's Fattest Countries". Forbes. Archived from the original on 2007-02-07. 
  2. ^ Nick Squires (12 April 2008). "Spam at heart of South Pacific obesity crisis". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 21 August 2009. 
  3. ^ Phil Mercer (26 February 2007). "South Pacific Leads the World in Obesity". Retrieved 15 July 2016. 
  4. ^ "Pacific Islanders are world's fattest". BBC News. 28 November 2001. Retrieved 21 August 2009. 
  5. ^ a b "Modern life means modern ills for obese Pacific islanders". AFP. 8 February 2008. Retrieved 21 August 2009. 
  6. ^ Phil Mercer (25 March 2007). "Obese Aussies get big ambulances". BBC News. Retrieved 21 August 2009.