Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) have been the leading cause of death in Palau. Although various efforts have been made to improve the condition since the time NCD crisis was declared in 2011, NCDs still remain a major issue for Palau. The road to solving it is long and tough because it can’t be improved simply by providing medical care or developing medicines, but only by changing human behavior. For many people, changing their lifestyle is a chore, and even if they succeed in making the change, it is even more difficult to maintain it.

Ms.Maki Yamazaki has been working as a physical education volunteer in the NCD Unit of the Ministry of Health and Human Services since February 2022. She is the first physical education volunteer who is specifically dispatched to the NCD unit under Ministry of Health and Human Services for taking the countermeasure through exercise. Maki, a young and energetic athlete, is struggling as an only member of the unit who approaches the problem by introducing exercises.

Maki says “Now, I am trying to make people of all ages, from children to the elderly, feel the joy and significance of continued exercise to contribute to the prevention and decrease of NCDs in Palau. I know that doing exercise is sometimes extremely bothering through my long experience since my elementary school era. But, I also knew that continuing something and overcoming it as a result is more fun than we can imagine through the experience. As well, I knew how sweating and getting heart rate up is refreshing. I love exercise and sports so much, thus I think they should not be forced to do by others. That is essential idea in my activities as JICA volunteer even though my mission here is to expand establishment of exercise habits among Palauan people. Therefore, I am doing my best to provide as many opportunities as possible to make the people feel “Exercise is fun!”. It is challenging to establish exercise habits for most of the people, however, I hope that the people will be aware of what they like, or how they are weak in the process. I believe that continuing exercise generates more invisible merits than visible merits, and the awareness will lead to changing their behavior, which is the key to materialize my mission. “

Ms.Edolem Ikerdeu, the Program Manager of NCD Unit, says “I once heard a very wise man, who by the way, at the age of 75, walked faster than me at the Palau Track and Field; he said, “there are 24 hours in a day, surely you can find one hour out of those 24 to exercise and give yourself the gift of a long and healthy life.” I have never forgotten, and there have been so many times that I have failed, but I remember his words and I persevere. It is difficult as Maki says, but maybe we can help each other find easier ways to lead healthy and active lives, for ourselves, our loved ones and our community. Please join Maki in her sessions one of these days. You might be surprised as you discover how fun it can be!”

JICA volunteer program in Palau commemorated 25 years of its history last year. During the quarter century, more than 290 volunteers have worked and contributed not only to socio economic development of Palau, but also to mutual understanding between both countries through their grassroots activities. The cooperation has been unique and precious in Palau which enables sustainable development by providing human to human relationships between the two countries.

To learn more about this and other JICA Programs, contact the Ministry of State or JICA Palau Office, or visit or Facebook, JICA Palau Office.

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