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MPs call to revive Parliament’s Advocacy Group for Healthy Living

By lagi Keresoma

APIA, SAMOA – 17 MARCH 2023: Several Members of Parliament have called to revive the Samoa Parliamentary Advocacy Group for Healthy Living (SPAGHL) after realising the alarming increase in the number of dialysis patients especially the young people.

The youngest dialysis patient on record is a 16 year old boy and the average age of renal patients is now 30 years.

Central to the call is for early preventative intervention measures for healthy living and lifestyles for the younger generations of Samoa.

The concerns were voiced during the discussion of the National Kidney Foundation Annual Report 2019/2020 and the serious situation of kidney failure and the need for 30 more dialysis machines to cater for the growing patient numbers.

MP for Anoama’a No.1 Alaiasa Sepulona Moefaauo said if SPAGHL can address the problem, then revive it.

The Minister for Education, Seuula Ioane raised the concern about unhealthy food sold at the school cafeterias and consumed by children.

He referred to a special committee in the past which conducted schools visits to encourage healthy eating and a hygiene lifestyle.

“I call on the Minister for Health and everyone to work together for healthy eating and healthy lifestyles especially for our young generations,” said Seuula.

The SPAGHL Initiative
The Minister for Agriculture & Fisheries, Laauliealemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao informed Seuula that the program he referred to was the SPAGHL which he as Speaker then initiated and implemented in 2008.

The program was later cancelled by the previous Government.

In 2008, Parliament formed a partnership with the Ministry of Education, Health and other stakeholders to advocate for a healthy eating platform in schools.

Students of Faga Primary School
Students of Faga Primary School

Parliamentarians see targeting the health of the young Samoan population as the priority.

They set up policies and guidelines for every school to follow such as healthy food allowed in the schools, creating school vegetable and fruit garden projects where children can be part of.

SPAGHL’s visits also discovered the very poor and unhygienic conditions of bathrooms in some schools and safety issues that contributed to the problem.

“The exposure of children to these poor conditions is the beginning of poor health and a contributing factor to the Non-Communicable Diseases,” said Laauli.

These visits resulted in the closure of several schools due to poor and unhygienic and unsafe facilities. The closures resulted in a friction that ultimately led to closing down the SPAGHL initiative by pulling its budget.

But the closure of various schools and identifying the safety and hygiene issues at the time, resulted in the Government of the Peoples Republic of China funding five new schools at $5m tala per school.

He pointed out that such a program can assist the health Ministry in their drive for a Healthy Living and Healthy Lifestyles of young Samoans to address the serious problem of non-communicable diseases.

“Imagine if that initiative was not stopped ten years ago?” Laauli asked.

“We need to focus on the health of our young population now to address the serious health issue we’re now facing. Getting more dialysis machines is not the answer,” he emphasized.

The Minister of Finance, Mulipola Anarosa Molio’o also supported the push for preventive measures.

“Mulipola believes getting new dialysis units is not the answer as it will reflect poorly on health management or could be interpreted that Samoa has succumbed to the fact that there will be more dialysis patients in the future.”

Instead she called on members to consider the root cause of kidney failure which she said is food.

O lo’o i o tatou lima le tali o le faafitauli,” “The answer to this problem is in our hands,” Mulipola said.

The Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Toeolesulusulu Cedric Schuster suggested that each district should allocate 1 per cent of their $1 million tala grant for preventative programs to promote a healthy lifestyle.

According to the Chairman of the Social Sector Committee, Laumatiamanu Ringo Purcell, there are currently 32 machines operating at the National Kidney Foundation with 64 plugs available at the clinic.

They are now waiting for 30 new machines which cabinet has approved.