Fiji’s Permanent Secretary for Health Dr James Fong hopes workers will develop healthy habits in their various workplaces as part of collective efforts to enhance the country’s overall health status including bolstering the country’s Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) fight.
Dr Fong’s expectations come on the back of the launch of the ministry’s Health Setting Program in Suva, this time focusing on the workplace with a view to inculcate in workers healthier means of going about their work such as opting for the steps instead of the elevator, cutting down on the duration they are stationary at their workstation or the food they eat during their breaks.
Within certain departments of the health ministry, Dr Fong said that they have taken to using standing tables to work rather than sitting for long hours.
“So we expect that workplaces will promote more physical related ways of working in the offices,” Dr Fong said. “There are small things that we want to promote in the offices where officers are actually able to move around, walk up steps rather than the lift, those kinds of small things that increase the number of steps that you can take in a day is what we believe will push for the concept of healthy living.
“At the end of the day, what we are targeting is the habits.”
Dr Fong said the initiative is underscored by the lessons brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, one of which was that a major contributor to severe outcomes in all waves of COVID-19 in Fiji has been NCD-related illnesses. To mitigate such, he said it was important to enhance Fiji’s health resilience across the board by way of initiatives like the healthy workplace settings program launched in Suva today.
“We need to build back better and stronger, that any creation of resilience has to be across all sectors. So, promoting healthy living across all sectors, promoting healthy living across all the various work settings, or any settings would help us in creating a trigger resilience of the population,” Dr Fong said. “During the acute phase of the epidemic, the ones who suffered the most were vulnerable, trying to reduce the size of the vulnerable population is one of the biggest tasks that we have to work on. So for NCD accessing those various settings requires a lot of other intersectoral partners to work with.”
The day-long workshop involving reps from the workforce is an extension of similar programs observed in schools as well as in communities where it was rolled out last. With the involvement of work reps, Dr Fong said the view was for the delegates to implement these programs in their various workplaces the way they see fit, and oversee as well as take ownership of it.
In launching the health-promoting workplace program at the Holiday Inn in Suva, Fiji’s President Ratu Wiliame Katonivere pleaded with employers and employees to adopt a healthier workplace to assist in the reduction of the country’s mortality rate as well as ensure a productive and healthy working population.
The health settings program is part of Fiji’s implementation of the Healthy Islands concept adopted by Pacific Islands’ Ministers of Health during their meeting in Rarotonga, Cook Islands in 1997.