Before Europeans arrived in the Samoan archipelago, the islanders who had settled there 3,000 years ago were strong and healthy, as many early photographs and the descriptions of the first wave of European foreigners depict. They lived in harmony with the land and the sea that sustained not only their wellbeing and way of life but also the health of the terrestrial and marine environments they depended on. Research now unequivocally reveals the rapid emergence of a health crisis troubling this once strong and healthy population: non-communicable diseases have reached epidemic levels in Samoa, contributing to what is now a regional and global pandemic.
‘O le Pologa Tau ‘ave – The Heavy Burden,” a 44-minute documentary film produced by Galumalemana Steven Percival in 2018, explores the crisis presented by non-communicable diseases in Samoa with a particular emphasis on food. What clearly emerges from the film is that Samoan society is facing a health crisis with massive personal, social, financial and development costs.
Supported under the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives, the film was designed to contribute to the discourse on NCDs in Samoa by raising awareness about these socially transmitted conditions and their four main risk factors: smoking, poor nutrition, alcohol consumption, and physical inactivity. These risk factors form the acronym SNAP and are the focal areas of government intervention. This film focusses on diet as a key risk factor that requires much greater attention if the crisis is to be addressed.