$400m burden: Whole of society needed to to deal with NCDs – Dr Fong

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Permanent Secretary for Ministry of Health and Medical Services Dr James Fong stresses a point during the joint press conference between Ministry of Tourism and Police. Picture: RAMA/FT FILE

Non-Communicable diseases placed a $400 million burden on Fijian society, meaning this was the cost of lost potential to the country, said the Ministry of Health’s permanent secretary Dr James Fong.

Dr Fong said Fiji needed a whole-of-society response to deal with COVID-19.

He said working with their partners such as Diabetes Fiji Inc, Fiji Cancer Society, Medical Services Pacific, Empower, Lifeline Fiji, National Committee On Preventing Suicide, Substance Abuse Advisory Council, they had evolved a network of avenues to help provide prevention and care services for NCDs.

“The ministry had committed to facilitating regular outreach services and undertaking community-wide health awareness and promotion activities well before this pandemic,” he said.

“We recognise that decentralising public health and clinical care remains the one means to ensure we reach all who need to be reached.

“The pandemic has actually created an opportunity to identify and treat NCDs with greater accuracy.

“We needed to rapidly identify as many vulnerable Fijians as possible – including those who were undiagnosed with NCDs – in order to prioritise them for vaccination.

“We now have accurate and consistently maintained registries of patients with chronic disease that will allow us to reach out to them with advice and medications.

“Apart from face-to-face services access, we worked with strategic partners – including DFAT and NGOs in Fiji – to enable virtual care access through the Telehealth number 165 for services such as COVID care, cardiac care, surgery, cancer treatment, eye treatment, and mobile medication support in cooperation with partners like Diabetes Fiji, Medical Services Pacific, and Fiji Cancer Society.”