For 10 years, Palau has remained under a Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) health crisis since it was declared a health crisis by former Minister of Health Dr. Stevenson Kuartei in 2011. First Lady Valerie Whipps, who is also a member of Palau’s Non-communicable Disease Coordination Mechanism, said that most of the deaths occurring in Palau now are NCD-related.

“We can see the result of the NCD crisis on the number of funerals every weekend,” added First Lady Whipps at the press conference held this week.

In addition, she said the COVID crisis highlighted the NCD problem as all of those that were most vulnerable to COVID were those who had pre-existing conditions as a result of NCD-related issues.

Dr. Mekoll of the Ministry of Health and Human Services (MHHS) concurred, saying that more than 90% of cases referred off-island for medical care are NCD-related cases. The top 3 categories of referral cases are cancer, heart, and diabetes-related illnesses.

NCDs are lifestyle diseases caused by choices people make and solutions must address behavioral changes and modeling of right behaviors, said First Lady Whipps. 

Reporting the 39 initiatives that were awarded grants totaling $674,810 from the NCD Coordinating Mechanism to promote the reduction and prevention of NCDs, First Lady Whipps nevertheless expressed her disappointment that barely 2 out of 39 initiatives mentioned or incorporated tobacco or alcohol awareness in the projects.

“Tobacco use is the one common risk factor in all of the NCDs…and over 50% of our cancer cases are tobacco-related,’ reported First Lady Valerie Whipps. She added that alcohol abuse is the cause of car accidents, domestic abuse, and juvenile delinquency.

To put more emphasis on alcohol and tobacco awareness and prevention, $75,000 was retained for initiatives that specifically address these two issues.

“It’s hard work because we are talking about addressing risk factors on alcohol abuse, tobacco use, unhealthy diets, and even mental health,” emphasized the First Lady.

The message, she said, is to admit that there is a problem and then do something about it. Everyone has to do their part as part of the whole and look at wellness with a holistic approach, addressing the overall health of a person by integrating mental, physical, and spiritual health.

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