Experts warn of poor healthcare systems in the region

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HAGÅTÑA, Guam-May 3: 11:22am(Marianas Variety/Pacnews): Pacific island jurisdictions continue to face significant challenges across a number of health system components, posing critical and continuing barriers to effectively and efficiently responding to continuing and still-acute disease burdens.

At the 22nd Micronesian Islands Forum — formerly known as the Micronesian Chief Executives Summit — the Regional Health Committee and the Pacific Island Health Officers Association reported that despite concerted efforts, Micronesia continues to see worsening trends in a number of key health indicators and measures.

“The committee therefore reiterated their recommendation at the 21st MIF, that the Micronesian states focus on strengthening their health systems to build resiliency, and therefore sustainability of their health systems, while also improving services to affect improvements in health outcomes,” states the communiqué signed on Tuesday by leaders of Micronesian island states and territories.

On Guam, heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death, at 27.4 percent; followed by cancer at 19.3 percent; stroke comes third at 7 percent, followed by diabetes at 5.2 percent.

Yap Lieutenant Governor James Yangetmai also noted the need to step up educational efforts on health initiatives, citing the incidence of cancer and other diseases in his island. He suggested that there should be more effort to study environmental factors as well as showing people how to reduce risk factors that come from unhealthy eating habits.

Another problem identified at the forum was related to health providers’ difficulty in providing treatments to undocumented patients from other Micronesian states applying for medical and related services on Guam. Because many of these patients could not provide necessary documents such as birth certificates, social security cards, photo identifications or passports, their applications for medical service programs are impeded.

“The leaders recognised the findings of the committee and once again stressed that there needs to be concerted investments and planning in both formal and informal training of local human resources for health, including accredited continuing professional development opportunities available locally, or within the region,” the communiqué states.

On the second day of the forum, the region’s chief executives signed a communiqué identifying the common issues that the island states have committed to address — individually and regionally — in the succeeding years.

They vowed to build a stronger regional work force, create better healthcare systems, develop sustainable tourism and enhance their ties toward addressing all other issues affecting the region.

“We also have shared our challenges — whether it’s on labor shortages, bio-security and protecting our islands from invasive species,” Guam Governor Eddie Calvo said.

The island leaders agreed to hold the 23rd Micronesian Islands Forum next year in the CNMI.

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