LAUNCHING OF THE FOODSWITCH FIJI APP

The Acting Permanent Secretary for Health and Medical Services, Ms. Susan Kiran;
• Representative of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s (DFAT), Dr. Francis Bingwor;
• Representative of the Department of Foreign Affairs, New Zealand, Ms Vamarasi Mausio;
• Pro Vice Chancellor Research, Prof. Mohini Singh;
• Dean of the College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences,Dr. William May;
• Representatives of Regional and International Organisations;
• Representatives from The George Institute for Global Health Australia;
• Senior Representatives of Government and Statutory Organisations;
• Members of the media;
• Distinguished Guests; and
• Ladies and Gentlemen.

It gives me great pleasure to provide the opening remarks for the launch of the FoodSwitch Fiji App which has been developed by The George Institute for Global Health Australia in collaboration with the College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences of the Fiji National University. Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) have reached epidemic proportions in Fiji and many other Pacific countries. Diabetes, heart attack, stroke, hypertension and obesity are major problems in our communities. Non-Communicable Diseases have risen mostly due to poor lifestyles, particular diets, physical inactivity, tobacco use and over-indulgence in alcohol. Non-Communicable Diseases contribute to significant proportion of illness, disability and premature deaths in Fiji. Non-Communicable Diseases are a major social and economic burden for our nation, and are robbing us of our productive workforce, community and family members.

This major problem requires the concerted effort of all Fijians – the Ministry of Health, cannot do this alone, – it requires a multisectoral approach that involves all parts of Government, civil society, the community and the private sector. I strongly believe that we all know that eating well is important for our health and wellbeing, but knowing what to eat and how to choose healthier options is not always that easy. We are fortunate in Fiji to be exposed to having a wider choice of both local and imported foods extensively available for us to choose from.

The team at the Ministry of Health works in partnerships with other ministries and associated groups that promote a healthy Fiji, to ensure teachings about healthy eating which should start right from the homes, the schools and continue through to all levels and sections of our communities. However, from today Fijians will have access to a new tool, an innovative tool to help them in choosing a healthier diet. The FoodSwitch App allows Fijians to look at items in stores and see what healthieritemsto choose fromto purchase. Fijians can simply scan the bar codes of food and beverage products in any store and receive immediate, easy-to-understand nutrition information about the product as well as a list of similar foods that are of healthier choices. The FoodSwitch App is like having a nutritionist on hand at the supermarket.

At this juncture, I commend the Fiji National University and The George Institute for Global Health Australia for developing the FoodSwitch project in Fiji. I have been advised that The George Institute is committed to maintaining the App for the next two [2] years, until 2021. Ladies and Gentlemen, this is an ideal and valid opportunity to discuss on-going data collection to establish a food monitoring system for Fiji that provides the Government an on-going data about the food supply to make well-informed and reliable policy actions. The FoodSwitch Fiji App is now available in the Fiji App stores, for everyone to use. AstheChampionforthe Fight againstNon-CommunicableDiseases, I am indeed pleased to see technology being used to aid everyone to make healthier choices.

MayItakethisopportunitytothankallourpartnersandstakeholders and in particular the Australian Government for your continuing support and assistance, and the provision of the research grant through their Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade’s (DFAT) Innovation Exchange programme. Vinaka Vakalevu! Last, but not the least, I wish to express my sincere appreciation to the Dean, the Associate Dean Research and the staff at the College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences and The George Institute for Global Health Australia, for taking on the challenge of developing the App and putting processes in place to ensure that all consumers choose healthier food and drinksin the supermarket – at a glance in combating NCDs.

I now have much pleasure in declaring the FoodSwitch Fiji App launched in 2019. Thank you, Vinaka vakalevu, Fai’eksia, Dhanyavaad and May Almighty God bless you all and our beloved Fiji.