A simple health solution to Samoas’ disease burden


The former Director General of Health, Dr. Walter Vermeullen

By Rula Su’a – Vaai

APIA, SAMOA – WEDNESDAY 21 FEBRUARY 2018:  The former Director General of Health, Dr. Walter Vermeullen is calling Samoa a ‘disease burden country’ with huge financial costs and other indicators when the solution is very simple.

Originally from Belgium, the naturalized Samoan citizen is a surgeon who migrated to Samoa 49 years ago. He told Talamua that Samoa needs to change its eating habits. Of Samoa’s population, 30% have diabetes and 70% of its average population are obese.

“That percentage can be turned around in a matter of 3 weeks if people follow strictly the whole plan of food nutrition,” he stated.

And the diet is “Plenty of vegetables and less meat.” he added.

He made reference to himself, who used to be obese, suffered 2 heart attacks, feeling terrible and tired, and carrying around a bag of medicine. Ever since he changed his eating habits to lots of vegetables and less meat, he is not on medication anymore.

“The key is a healthy diet.”

According to Vermuellen, with a disease burden country like Samoa, the focus should be shifted to sick people.

“We talk a lot about prevention, but we need to focus on the sick people because we can turn them around by simply following a nutritious meal plan.”

Recently Dr. Vermuellen was bestowed the Knights Cross of the Order of Leopold by the Belgium authorities in recognition of his work in medical and community development. He said he was surprised and did not expect the honour from the Belgium State.

“I guess Belgium decided to award it to me, because of my work in Samoa, and the Knights Cross of the Order of Leopold is equivalent to the Order of Samoa.”

Dr. Vermeullen currently runs his clinic from the old Acute Seven ward at the old Moto’otua Hospital, and is hoping more people turn up to take part in their weekly seminars that talk about why people get sick, and how to overcome it.

They also have cooking demonstrations of healthy and low cost meals.

“My message is that we hope to reach many more villages and families give them the healthy message, so that we can have more villages with us on the program.”

Several professional people who have taken up Dr. Vermeullen’s dietary programme, have testified to the positive effects with many doing away with medication for lifestyle diseases like diabetes.

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