The South-Pacific Society of Lifestyle Medicine Update. A 10,000 Toes Campaign sponsored educational event in Fiji.
In March 2020, the South Pacific Society of Lifestyle Medicine held what was probably one of the last international conferences in the world for 2020, in Pacific Harbour, Fiji. One week later travel to Fiji was essentially cut as Fiji announced its first case of COVID-19.
The theme for the inaugural conference was “Turning the tide on NCDs – it begins with me.” The opening address being given by His Excellency, the president of Fiji. His Excellency is a strong advocate of promoting healthy lifestyles to help combat the tsunami of type 2 diabetes and other non-communicable diseases that are impacting Fiji and other Pacific island nations. Pictured is Fiji President, Jioji Konrote and Pamela Townend, 10,000 Toes.
Keynote presentations were also given by presenters from the World Health Organization and SPC. These underscored the importance of working together to address the non-communicable disease crisis facing the Pacific.
A Pacific Flavour
Around 100 conference attendees were made up of health professionals and lifestyle medicine enthusiasts. Countries represented were: Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Fiji, Tonga, Kiribati, Samoa, Tuvalu and the Cook Islands. The conference had a truly Pacific flavour. One highlight was the conference dinner which featured a sumptuous plant-based lovo, with the food being cooked in an underground oven on hot stones. This was enjoyed while listening to guest presenter Dr Jone Hawea, one of the presenters featured in the popular cooking show Pacific Island Food Revolution. Dr Hawea spoke on the importance of returning to the garden and traditional, healthier ways of eating.
Throughout the conference attendees listened to a variety of world class speakers. Topics included smoking cessation, therapeutic lifestyle interventions for type 2 diabetes. Exercise as medicine and how to design your own community-based lifestyle intervention. Conference attendees left excited about taking lifestyle medicine back to their home countries. They came to appreciate the extensive evidence base that forms the foundation of lifestyle medicine as an evidence-based discipline.
A Registered Charitable Trust
The South Pacific Society of Lifestyle Medicine was formally registered as a charitable trust in August 2019. The first ever executives were formally appointed during the organisation’s inaugural AGM held during the conference. Those appointed included:
- Dr Chester Kuma (president) – Solomon Islands
- Dr Alipate Vakamocea (president-elect) – Fiji
- Salanieta Hawea (vice president) – Fiji
- Dr Paul Wood (secretary) – Fiji
- Ilaitia Tuinamoala (treasurer) – Fiji
- Dr Margaret Cornelius (education director) – Fiji
- Peter Zinck – Fiji
- Dr Rosemary Lusama – Tuvalu
- Dr Walter Vermeulen – Samoa
- Dr Flora Lutui – Tonga
- Dr Arite Kathrine Kauongo – Kiribati
- Phalguni James – Vanuatu
- Dr Vaia Gwaibo – PNG
- Pr Sarah Aratai – Cook Islands
Formal Training in Lifestyle Medicine
Immediately following the conference 12 brave individuals became the first ever candidates to undertake the International Board of Lifestyle Medicine’s board certification exams in the South Pacific islands. These individuals are the pioneers of a growing body of health professionals. They committing to undertake formal training in lifestyle medicine to help address the non-communicable disease crisis.
The South Pacific Society of Lifestyle Medicine is extremely grateful for the significant seed funding it has received from the 10,000 Toes Campaign. This funding has allowed the society to establish a website, and a significant social media presence. Host monthly webinars, actively engage with governments and education institutions and hold its inaugural conference. Without this funding, many health professionals may never know that there are effective, evidence-based, therepeutic lifestyle interventions that can prevent, arrest and oftentimes reverse non-communicable diseases such as type 2 diabetes. Thank you for your generous support of the 10,000 Toes Campaign and of the South Pacific Society of Lifestyle Medicine!