Obesity epidemic in the Cook Islands
The highest obesity rate in the world, according to the WHO
About 51% of Cook Islanders are obese, representing the highest rate in the world, according to the World Health Organization.
Neti Herman, the director of the public health department, stated: "We are concerned about this article and we are doing everything we can in the Cook Islands to try and address this issue about obesity." Neti Herman added that her department is working with the WHO, hoping to discuss the matter with them soon.
According to Lincoln University ecology professor Steve Wratten, one of the issues fueling the obesity epidemic in the Cook Islands is limited access to inexpensive fruits and vegetables.
"Obesity is at very high levels, creating significant challenges for Cook Islands communities. Reported cases of diabetes are at 24 per cent, but quite a lot are unreported. About 88 per cent of the population are either overweight or obese, according to the Cook Islands NCD Risk Factors STEPS Report."
In the Cook Islands fruit and vegetables are very expensive, about 85% being imported from overseas.
"One cauliflower can cost $13, which locals can't afford because their salaries are so low. When processed and junk foods are relatively cheap and incomes are limited, choice disappears," professor Wratten says.