FDI Member

Combatting noncommunicable diseases: Fiji's bold step with healthy catering policy

In this interview, the Fiji Dental Association shares more about the country’s new Policy on Healthy Catering for Government Ministries and Institutions aimed at reducing the burden of noncommunicable diseases within its population.

Combatting noncommunicable diseases: Fiji's bold step with healthy catering policy

Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) have become the biggest threat to the Fijian population’s health, contributing to over 80 per cent of fatalities in recent years. Recognizing this pressing issue, Fiji has taken a crucial step forward by launching a National Policy on Healthy Catering for Government Ministries and Institutions. This policy aims to alleviate the burden of NCDs across the nation.

FDI applauds the proactive stance of the Fijian Government in addressing the prevalence of NCDs. In this interview, FDI member – the Fiji Dental Association – discusses this important policy and further strategies to reinforce healthy eating habits among its population, as well as the policy’s impact on oral health. Oral diseases persist as some of the most widespread and preventable NCDs globally. With the United Nations High-Level Meeting on NCDs scheduled for December 2025, it is imperative to uphold oral health as a fundamental component of the common risk factor approach and the NCD agenda.

Can you tell us about the new policy in Fiji to tackle noncommunicable diseases through healthy eating?


The National Policy on Healthy Catering and Sale of Food and Beverages for Government Ministries and Institutions was launched on February 15th, 2024, to help Fiji deal with its big health problems, NCDs.

The policy seeks to ensure people eat better and have healthier habits, especially in government offices. It also wants to encourage eating local foods and avoid importing unhealthy processed foods from outside Fiji.

The goal is to reduce the number of people getting sick and dying from diseases like diabetes and heart problems, which are very common in Fiji. The policy gives clear rules for serving healthy foods in government establishment and ensure meals and snacks are good and healthy.

As stated by our Health Minister, Dr. Atonio Lalabalavu, “it's not just about hospitals; it's about everyone's daily life, like at home, school, work, and even in government discussions.”  He believes everyone needs to work together to tackle these health problems.

Alongside the policy, the Health Ministry is making a plan with their partners to fight these diseases. They want to make sure everyone knows how to stay healthy and stop these diseases from increasing.

What motivated the decision to adopt this policy? Did your NDA have a role in it?


The decision to adopt this policy was mainly driven by the findings of the Food Systems and Nutrition Study conducted in 2021. The study revealed several concerning issues, such as the lack of healthier food options in schools and various barriers to practicing good nutrition, including affordability. It also highlighted the pervasive influence of unhealthy food and beverage advertisements during peak viewing times, as well as the significant impact of price and convenience on people's dietary habits.

This study was initiated following Fiji's first-ever Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) conducted in March-April 2021, which shed light on the pressing need to address nutritional challenges in the country.

The Food Systems and Nutrition Study was made possible through funding from the Government of New Zealand, with additional support from UNICEF, UNFPA, and technical assistance from the Pacific Community (SPC).

While the Fiji Dental Association was not directly involved in the development of this policy, we had long recognized the importance of addressing nutritional needs and had taken steps internally to address these issues in our past conferences and branch meetings.

The policy currently addresses civil servants; will the policy be broadened to general population?


The current policy mainly targets civil servants, but there are hints that it might include everyone later on. This could be because of the big problems with food and health found in the Food Systems and Nutrition Study. It showed that lots of people in Fiji struggle with eating healthy, not just those who work for the government.

Since many people in Fiji face issues with diseases like diabetes and heart problems, it makes sense to think about how to help everyone, not just civil servants. The study found that it's hard for people to eat well because healthy food can be expensive, and there are a lots of advertisements for unhealthy foods.

The government seems serious about improving public health, which is why they supported the Food Systems and Nutrition Study. If they expand the policy to cover everyone, it could make a big difference in helping people eat better and stay healthier.

Plus, if healthcare workers follow the same healthy eating rules, it could make people feel more confident in them and want to follow their example.

How will this policy improve oral health within Fiji?


This policy will help improve oral health in Fiji by promoting healthier eating habits. The Food Systems and Nutrition Study found that many people struggle with eating well because of issues like the cost of healthy food and heavy advertisements for unhealthy options. By encouraging healthier food choices through the policy, people may be less likely to consume sugary and acidic foods and drinks that harm teeth and gums.

Additionally, when the policy extends beyond civil servants to the general population, it will have an even greater impact on oral health on the nation. When healthcare providers follow healthy eating guidelines, it will inspire confidence in the community and encourage them to follow suit.

Furthermore, while the Fiji Dental Association wasn't directly involved in developing the policy, we had recognized the importance of addressing nutritional needs. This indicates that oral health professionals were aware of the connection between diet, oral health and the whole body and will offer guidance or support in promoting healthier eating habits to prevent dental issues.

Overall, by addressing dietary factors that contribute to poor oral health, such as high sugar intake, this policy has the potential to positively impact oral health outcomes across Fiji.

What are the next steps? What does the NDA plan to do to leverage this policy to reduce the burden of oral diseases?


The Fiji Dental Association aims to utilize the government's new policy on healthy catering and food sales to tackle oral health issues. Our association intends to be involved at the forefront, advocating for the policy, as the Government of Fiji recognizes the critical role of nutrition in oral health and plans to align its efforts accordingly.

By integrating oral health education and promotion of healthy eating habits into their conferences and branch meetings, the Fiji Dental Association seeks to complement the policy's objectives. Emphasizing the importance of proper nutrition in preventing oral diseases like cavities and gum disease, we aim to raise awareness among both healthcare providers and the general population.

Furthermore, by advocating oral health as a component of the whole body within the broader framework of the policy, the association aims to ensure that dental health considerations are not overlooked. This strategic alignment will help reinforce the message of holistic health and encourage a unified approach to combating the burden of oral diseases alongside other health challenges faced by Fiji.

In leveraging the policy to reduce the burden of oral diseases, the Fiji Dental Association envisions a collaborative effort wherein healthcare providers and policymakers work together to promote healthier dietary choices and improve overall oral health outcomes for the people of Fiji.

Is there anything else that you would like to highlight?


The Fiji Dental Association is aiming to expand its proactive stance beyond just focusing on dietary considerations to include broader health concerns, such tobacco consumption. Recognizing the detrimental impact of these behaviors on oral health and overall well-being, the Association plans to conduct Tobacco Cessation workshops on World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) on May 31st. These workshops are designed to equip oral practitioners with the education and tools necessary to advocate for tobacco cessation effectively.

By integrating strategies to promote healthy eating habits and combat harmful behaviors like tobacco use, Fiji will as whole take comprehensive steps towards improving public health outcomes and fostering a culture of wellness. Through collaborative efforts between government agencies, healthcare providers, and community organizations, Fiji is poised to make significant strides in mitigating the impact of NCDs and enhancing the overall health and well-being of its population.


Editor’s note: This interview was edited according to FDI’s editorial guidelines. The views expressed are those of the interviewee.