The Pacific island of Tonga is the most obese country in the world. Up to 40% of the population is thought to have type 2 diabetes and life expectancy is falling.
Watch the video and answer the questions below.
1 How has the diet of Tongans changed in recent years?
2 What does 90% refer to?
3 What happened to Kesaia as a result of the complications of her diabetes?
4 How do some scientists explain the obesity problem?
5 Why do food and eating play an important role in Tonga?
6 What solution to the problem is Tonga's Health Minister thinking of?
Every morning Tonga's fishermen bring their catch to the local market but it is getting harder to sell to customers, especially when there is competition like this: On the other side of the harbour, cuts of imported meat such as these fatty mutton flaps have become a Tongan staple in recent years. With globalisation trade has become easier and food cheaper, supermarkets are stocked with tinned and frozen meat from abroad and local produce is relatively costly.
It’s the foreign food that is being blamed for our health crisis here and across the Pacific Islands. It’s a crisis that isn’t just costly for health but for the government's finances too.
This is the queue for the daily diabetes clinic, the biggest queue by far here in the country's main hospital. 90% of Tongans are obese or overweight and it has a massive health impact. This country has one of the highest levels of type two diabetes in the world.
The doctors are working flat out. Despite government initiatives to make people aware of the dangers of obesity and illnesses like diabetes it is yet to make a big difference here.
Where we are, we still continue to see so many people living with diabetes. Our workload is not easing up. If anything, it’s expanding.
The Huni family have been through a lot. Kesaia lost her leg several years ago because of complications with diabetes, but she is not the only one suffering.
It started with my grandma, now my mum, my dad, two of my sisters and now me, and we’ve gone from, you know, just eating whatever to watching what we eat.
Some scientists believe Tonga's problem is partly down to genetics, that Pacific Islanders in the past had to survive long periods without food, so their bodies are programmed to cling on to fats. But diet plays a huge role and in a deeply religious country where feasting and food are central to life here, it’s a hard message to sell. Even Tonga's health Minister thinks people could do more to help themselves. Charging for health care may be unpopular, but he thinks it could make a difference.
They know that if they do this, they will get sick and they will end up in the hospital, and if they end up in the hospital they will have to pay. But right now that is not the mentality of people, we do what we do to get sick, we won't be charged.
1 They have stopped eating fish and started to eat meat.
2 Percentage of Tongans who are obese or overweight.
3 She lost her leg.
4 It has to do with genetics.
5 Because of religious reasons.
6 Making people pay for health expenses.