Figures from the World Health Organization (WHO) show that nine of the 10 countries with the highest levels of obesity in the world are in the Pacific Islands region, New Zealand media reported. The Cook Islands top the list.
"The Pacific now is in the midst of an NCD (non-communicable disease) crisis and the problem appears to be intensifying," WHO's Pacific Health Systems and Policy Team Leader, Ezekiel Nukuro, told Radio New Zealand. "NCDs now account for about three out of every four deaths reported in the Pacific Islands," he said.
According to WHO, 50.8% of Cook Islanders are obese, as are 45% of the inhabitants of Palau and Nauru and 43% of those of Samoa, Tonga and Niue. Obesity affects 42% of Marshall Islanders, a level similar to Qatar, the only non-Pacific country to make it to the top ten.
Kiribati and Tuvalu round out the list with obesity levels at 40% in these Pacific Island nations. Nukuro said the region was taking steps to address problems resulting from smoking, alcohol consumption, poor nutrition and lack of physical exercise.