Life Expectancy Declining?

 A report co-authored by Fiji National Univesity's Prof Graham Roberts claims that Fiji life expectancy (at birth) dropped from 72.9 years in 2000 to 67.8 years in 2005. Comparable 1986 and 1996 figures were 66.9 and 66.6 years.  I found Prof Roberts' reasons for the decline of interest but  respectfully suggest a drop of five years in five years is highly suspect, and most likely caused by faulty statistics, although the sharp increase in lifestyle diseases, particularly heart related, could be a factor. The actual figure for 2000 seems more likely to have been somewhere between the 1996 and 2005 figures. Whatever the actual situation, the report highlighted a number of other important concerns in the Fiji health service.  Today is the 5th anniversary of the 2006 Coup whose effects are not fully traced by the report.

The article below is from PINA, the Pacific Islands News Association. The article and video interview that follows is from ABC's Pacific Beat.  Readers will note the emphasis, first captured in its headline,  to possible political, coup-related, causes,  a theme pursued in the interview.

Fiji's Life Expectancy Decreases
Life expectancy rate in Fiji has declined from 72.9 years to 67.8 years from the year 2000 to 2005, reveals a Fiji Islands Health System Review by the Asia Pacific Observatory on Health Systems and Polices. The detailed review written by experts from Fiji National University (FNU), World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Ministry of Health also found out that 39 per cent of Fiji’s population are below the age of 20. The review also highlighted 61 per cent of the countries population live in the urban areas.

According to Dr Graham Roberts one of the writers of the review the out-of-the-pocket medical expenditure for people in Fiji increased from 11.9 per cent to 15.5 per cent between the years 2005 to 2008 and 22 per cent in 2010. The review also highlighted that the cost of transportation is a major barrier affecting access to health facilities for people living in the remote areas of Fiji.

Fiji Islands Health System Review has also found out that Fiji’s health sector has pressuring human resource issues. The comprehensive review of Fiji’s health profile by Asia Pacific Observatory on Health Systems and Polices also highlighted that there is lack of doctors in rural areas and emigration of health workers overseas.

Presenting the overview of the findings at the Holiday Inn in Suva today Dr Graham Roberts of the Fiji National University (FNU) who is one of the writers of the review said (the) majority of Fiji’s health professionals are now concentrated in the urban hospitals. “The scarcity of qualified health professionals has caused Fiji delays in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s).” Dr Roberts said. He said 79 per cent of doctors in Fiji migrated to New Zealand, Australia, United States of America (USA) and other Pacific Island countries by the year 1999. The review also found out that nurses play a pivotal role in Fiji as they make up two thirds of the workforce.

Meanwhile, Fiji’s Public Service Commission has announced permanent secretary for the Ministry of Health, Dr Salanieta Saketa was no longer in the post following Government’s decision to bring to an end her appointment in line with provisions of her contract.

PSC chairman Josefa Serulagilagi confirmed that the position will soon be advertised and short listed before interviews and selections are held.  The chairman today acknowledged the substantial work contributed by Dr Saketa at the Health Ministry.

Serulagilagi said the recently announced 2012 Budget required new direction and management style within the ministry and added the ministry needed a new person in the position of permanent secretary because a lot of more reforms and a change in focus was needed.  The Hospital Services deputy secretary, Dr Eloni Tora will be the acting permanent secretary for Health effective from Monday, 05 December. Public Health deputy secretary, Dr Joe Koroivueta will act in the role until then.

Fiji life expectancy cut short by political turmoil: academic
A new report has revealed a dramatic decrease in life expectancy in Fiji, with the figure falling by nearly five years within a five year period.The life expectancy rate dropped from 72.9 years to 67.8 years from the year 2000 to 2005.

The figure comes from a Fiji Islands Health System Review by the Asia Pacific Observatory on Health Systems and Polices. One of the report's authors, Professor Graham Roberts, believes the difficult times experienced by Fiji since 1987 - particularly its political turmoil - are largely responsible.

But he's told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat that no single factor can be blamed for the dramatic fall.

"It's the fact there's been multiple transitions going on," Professor Roberts said.

"We've got urbanisation, we've got changes in dietary patterns, we've got political instability. We've got large proportion of the population moving into poverty, we've got a significant proportion of the population living in squatter settlements with inadequate water and sanitation.

"And these are symptoms, once again, [of] the hard times."


Islands in the Stream said…
We are not at all surprised by this finding, are we? We all know several families touched by cancer (of various varieties) and at least one family touched by suicide (of someone younger than 35 yrs). Eight women are destined to die now at a divisional hospital nearby of ONE particular cancer: quite preventable. It is a damning indictment not just of ourselves but also of the Regional Policies which went along with such folly. Since 1975 we knew better. We were informed fully. Foolishly, we neglected good advice.

The most common cancers are: cervical/breast/uterine/ovarian. So women, already harassed by domestic violence over two decades or more are dying of an even more deadly and painful cause.

Does that move us? It has not in the past. Not sufficiently to encourage us to make the necessary budgetary cuts and move funds to address this. Yet, the lack of political will since 1987 has caused untold suffering and anguish.

Shame on us! Shame on us and all who opportunistically took advantage. We simply partied on, expanded our huge business interests and took No Notice.
Anonymous said…
Of course the figures are suspect: they do not support your glowing view of the military regime. End of story.
Croz Walsh said…
@ Anonymous ... I'd keep calling yourself Anonymous if I were you. It will save you the embarrassment when you find out the figure you refer to was for 2005 when Laisenia was PM.It's always a good idea to read an article in full before penning your prejudices.
Islands in the Stream said…
@ Anonymous and Croz:

The position in Fiji with regard to cervical cancer was made quite plain by someone who is now in a position of eminence in Obstetrics and Gynaecology: a Professor Emeritus. This was in the year 1976shortly before he left Fiji.

The situation has not changed. Women are still dying unnecessarily because they cannot access examinations considered routine overseas. No woman needs to die in this way. These are mothers, grandmothers, aunts and sisters. They care for families. Who will replace them?

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