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Pacific Island countries are experiencing a high burden of diet-related non-communicable diseases; and consumption of fat, sugar and salt are important modifiable risk factors contributing to this. The present study systematically reviewed and summarized available literature on dietary intakes of fat, sugar and salt in the Pacific Islands.
Electronic databases (PubMed, Scopus, ScienceDirect and GlobalHealth) were searched from 2005 to January 2018. Grey literature was also searched and key stakeholders were consulted for additional information. Study eligibility was assessed by two authors and quality was evaluated using a modified tool for assessing dietary intake studies.
Thirty-one studies were included, twenty-two contained information on fat, seventeen on sugar and fourteen on salt. Dietary assessment methods varied widely and six different outcome measures for fat, sugar and salt intake – absolute intake, household expenditure, percentage contribution to energy intake, sources, availability and dietary behaviours – were used. Absolute intake of fat ranged from 25·4 g/d in Solomon Islands to 98·9 g/d in Guam, while salt intake ranged from 5·6 g/d in Kiribati to 10·3 g/d in Fiji. Only Guam reported on absolute sugar intake (47·3 g/d). Peer-reviewed research studies used higher-quality dietary assessment methods, while reports from national surveys had better participation rates but mostly utilized indirect methods to quantify intake.
Despite the established and growing crisis of diet-related diseases in the Pacific, there is inadequate evidence about what Pacific Islanders are eating. Pacific Island countries need nutrition monitoring systems to fully understand the changing diets of Pacific Islanders and inform effective policy interventions.
To implement a systematic evidence-informed process to enable Fiji and Tonga to identify the most feasible and targeted policy interventions which would have most impact on diet-related non-communicable diseases.
A multisectoral stakeholder group of policy advisers was formed in each country. They used participatory approaches to identify the problem policies and gaps contributing to an unhealthy food environment. Potential solutions to these problems were then identified, and were assessed by them for feasibility, effectiveness, cost-effectiveness and side-effects. Data were gathered on the food and policy environment to support the assessments. A shortlist of preferred policy interventions for action was then developed.
Sixty to eighty policy problems were identified in each country, affecting areas such as trade, agriculture, fisheries and pricing. Up to 100 specific potential policy solutions were then developed in each country. Assessment of the policies highlighted relevant problem areas including poor feasibility, limited effectiveness or cost-effectiveness and serious side-effects. A shortlist of twenty to twenty-three preferred new policy options for action in each country was identified.
Policy environments in these two countries were not conducive to supporting healthy eating. Substantial areas of potential action are possible, but some represent better choices. It is important for countries to consider the impact of non-health policies on diets.
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