CQUni Nutrition students help tackle diabetes in Fiji

Published:19 September 2018

CQUni students Lydia O'Meara (top) and Juanita Mooney (second image) have been in Fiji recently conducting nutritional workshops to tackle diabetes and cardiovascular disease in farming villages.

CQUniversity researcher Lydia O'Meara and her assistant Juanita Mooney have recently been in Fiji conducting nutritional workshops to tackle diabetes and cardiovascular disease in farming villages.

Bachelor of Science Honours student Lydia and Bachelor of Medical Science - Nutrition student Juanita have been part of a CQUniversity collaboration with the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research and Fiji’s Ministry of Health and Agriculture.

With Fiji’s population suffering the highest rate of diabetes in the world, Ms O’Meara (a Crawford Fund scholar) has been educating local farmers on how to overcome and reduce these common but preventable diseases in rural communities.

“Diabetes is a lifestyle-related disease that can be prevented or onset delayed by living a healthy lifestyle which includes eating a wide variety of healthy fruits and vegetable," Ms O'Meara says.

“Worryingly, fruit and vegetable consumption is low in Fiji, so these educational workshops are all about demonstrating how to include the benefits of eating a variety of fruits and vegetables found on the farm in the daily diet."

Ms O’Meara has been working in the Sigatoka Valley on Fiji’s main island of Viti Levu and has used data from more than 150 farming households to tailor nutrition demonstrations to the educational needs of the local communities.

“Fiji is undergoing a significant change of the food system, which includes transitioning from subsistence to commercial food production," Ms O'Meara says.

“Despite being directly involved in food production, rural households that sell vegetables for income are demonstrating low dietary diversity."

Ms O’Meara will also investigate the factors within these farming villages that influence their choices and ability to eat a wide variety of healthy foods.

The aim of this research is to work closely with government agencies to design appropriate intervention methods, which translate growing a good range of fruits and vegetables to increase dietary diversity at the household level.