Addressing NCDs in Solomon Islands

In response to rising rates of noncommunicable diseases, NCD Coordinators like Virginia Legaile work with patients to improve their health from a holistic perspective.

Virginia Legaile, a nurse and NCD coordinator, holds pineapple and wheat from her garden. © WHO / Neil Nuia

Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and chronic lung diseases are the leading cause of death in Solomon Islands. They are also a major cause of morbidity and mortality in a country where health facilities were designed to treat acute illness.

A man carries petrol to his boat in Tulagi, Solomon Islands. © WHO / Neil Nuia

In response, WHO worked in tandem with Solomon Islands’ Ministry of Health and provincial governments to provide technical and strategic advice in establishing the SoIPEN (Solomon Islands Package of Essential Noncommunicable Disease) programme. SoIPEN is a systems-based initiative that enables government health facilities to identify people who have NCDs and to treat them effectively.

Virginia Legaile, a provincial NCD coordinator, explains a SoIPEN cardiovascular risk chart to patient Jane Teva at the Tulagi Clinic. © WHO / Neil Nuia

Patients with NCDs are now seen at specialized clinics and receive comprehensive assessments and care plans tailored to their needs. These clinics are led by NCD Coordinators like Virginia Legaile.

Virginia is based in Tulagi, Central Province, and is one of twelve NCD Coordinators across the country who are dedicated to the SoIPEN programme. She previously screened patients for NCDs in the outpatient department in Tulagi Hospital one day per week. However, because of her commitment and the success of SoIPEN, an NCD clinic was established to support patients five days a week.

Left: Patient John Sade and his son leave the Tulagi Clinic outpatient area. Right: Virginia Legaile meets with her patient, Jane Teva. © WHO / Neil Nuia

Along with her peers, she has started the first patient medical filing system in the country. There is often no doctor in the province where she works, so she is frequently in contact via phone with the main hospital in Honiara for advice. Because of the SolPEN program, Virginia and other NCD nurses can prescribe diabetes, blood pressure and heart medications. This means that rather than traveling long distances to hospitals, patients can get medications at a clinic close to home.

Recognizing that her patients’ health is greatly influenced by their local environment, Virginia’s work extends outside the clinic. For example, Virginia started a garden on the hospital grounds and shares seeds, vegetables and nutrition knowledge with her patients. The garden has evolved into a demonstration garden and community hub where people can learn about nutrition and improve their gardening skills.

Virginia Legaile in front of her office. © WHO / Neil Nuia

Due in part to dedicated NCD Coordinators like Virginia, the SoIPEN programme is gaining national visibility. Governmental officials, private physicians, churches, and businesses now request and receive SoIPEN screenings for their personnel.

Women working on nutritional projects, part of an education programme to prevent NCDs by promoting a healthy diet. © WHO / Neil Nuia

With improved systems for early NCD diagnosis, better medical treatment, and a focus on patient-centred holistic care, more Solomon Islanders will be able to live healthy and happier lives.

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The World Health Organization provides global leadership in public health within the United Nations system. Founded in 1948, WHO works with 194 Member States, across six regions and from more than 150 offices, to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable.

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