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Support for chronic disease crisis in the Pacific

Health groups have praised Gillard’s commitment to tackle chronic disease in the Pacific Island nations.

Leading Australian and international health groups have welcomed the Australian Government’s announcement that it will increase its assistance to the Pacific to tackle chronic disease.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard committed $25 million over four years to help prevent and treat chronic diseases which are a leading cause of death and disability in the region at a leaders’ forum in New Zealand this month.

“Chronic diseases, many of which are preventable, are at crisis point in the Pacific,” said Dr Lyn Roberts, CEO of the Heart Foundation, speaking on behalf of the Australian Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance.

“We’re really pleased that this is acknowledged by the Australian Government and that they are continuing to support a critical program to address the immense social and economic toll these diseases take on the people of the Pacific.”

Chronic diseases conditions are responsible for 36 million deaths worldwide, with 80 per cent occurring in low and middle-income countries.

Around eight million deaths a year from chronic disease in low and middle income nations occur in people under 60, taking an immense social and economic toll on families and emerging economies.

“This new funding will enable the continuation of a vital program to improve health services and raise public awareness about the effects of alcohol and tobacco as well as the benefits of healthy nutrition and regular exercise,” Roberts said.

“The program will also benefit other chronic conditions such as kidney disease, which share the same risk factors,” she said.

Ann Keeling, Chair of the international NCD Alliance and CEO of the International Diabetes Federation also welcomed the investment.

“Australia is already acknowledged as a world leader in preventive health and in providing assistance to developing countries to tackle NCDs. With this pledge they have set an example for other aid donors to follow. Investing now in NCD prevention and control will save many billions of dollars in years to come,” she said.

The Prime Minister’s announcement at the 42nd Pacific Islands Forum in New Zealand comes ahead of a United Nations summit on chronic disease in New York on 19-20 September.

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