How to boost business productivity and support the fight against non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the South Pacific


The solution to the NCD crisis should start in the workplace


The prevalence of obesity and NCDs like diabetes, cancer and heart disease represents a considerable burden for the economies of Pacific Island countries.  

In Fiji, the cost associated with these diseases in 2015 was estimated between $248.6 and $406.4 million, equivalent to 2.7% to 4.4% of the country’s GDP. Furthermore, according to the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study, in 2019 NCDs caused over 6,300 deaths, representing almost 86% of the total deaths in the country.

Sadly, the situation is not dissimilar in the rest of the region. According to the World Bank, Pacific Island small states are the region with the highest prevalence of diabetes, with 10 Pacific countries and territories ranking among the world’s top 15.


Why businesses should play a key role in NCD prevention


A real crisis is unfolding, and its economic impact is not only felt at the country and government level. Individual businesses suffer major productivity and economic losses too because of these largely avoidable diseases.

It is in this context that nutrition interventions should be seen as a powerful tool for businesses to achieve significant benefits.  These include:

1.     Increasing productivity and reducing absenteeism


Over time, an NCD diagnosis can lead to productivity decline as the disease may require repeated treatments and long convalescence periods.

Conditions such as diabetes or heart disease also tend to become chronic, with patients often living with them from a young age and for a very long time throughout their productive years.

A wellness programme focusing on nutrition and NCD prevention would therefore be a wise investment for businesses to reduce sick leave days, increase the average staff productivity and lower the number of professional mistakes and accidents.

Existing evidence suggests that the return on investment for workforce nutrition programmes could be as high as to 6:1.

Dikoda is also conducting a systematic review of existing evidence on the impact of workplace-based nutrition interventions on nutritional outcomes amongst women and their offspring in low- and middle-income countries. The results will be released on this website as soon as they become available.


2.     Having healthy and loyal staff


A nutrition intervention in the workplace can also improve the workplace culture, as it can make the staff healthier, happier and more engaged in their work.

According to a 2016 survey by the American Psychological Association, employees with senior managers showing support through commitment to well-being initiatives said they were motivated to do their best (91%), satisfied with their job (91%) and would recommend their company as a good place to work (89%). On the contrary, only 17% of the employees without such support would recommend their employer.


3.     Enhancing business reputation among investors


Taking care of the staff’s health and wellbeing is not only the right thing to do, it’s also a good business opportunity.

Companies introducing Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) interventions such as wellness and health programs, have a competitive advantage over those who don’t. In fact, CSR can greatly improve a brand’s recognition and boost its reputation among local and foreign investors, thus creating new business opportunities.  


Introducing nutrition and NCD prevention interventions in the workplace (such as health checks, nutrition education and healthy canteens), is therefore a must for those businesses who want to grow and thrive, while also contributing to their community and the development of their country.


Vittoria Pasca

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