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Official Opening of the Asia Pacific Society of Periodontology Colloquium

August 17, 2016       Grand Pacific Hotel, Suva

The Vice Chancellor of the University of Fiji, Professor Nigel Healey;
The Acting Dean of the College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Dr William May;
The High Commissioner of India to Fiji, Your Excellency Mr Vishvas Sapkal;
Distinguished speakers and delegates;
Members of the Media;
Ladies and Gentlemen.

Ni bula vinaka, Namaste, Asalaam Alaykum, Noa’ia‘e mauri, and a very good morning to you all.

As you may have rightly guessed, Fiji is still in the midst of celebration following our National Seven-a-Side Rugby Men’s Golden effort in Rio last Friday. I am impressed that your organisers have been able to get us together for an early-morning start today!

Nonetheless, I am honoured to join you this morning and to extend a very warm welcome to all the participants.

The win at the Rio Olympics has inspired unity across the land, like we have never experienced before. Fiji as a nation will host one of the biggest celebrations in our history. A new chapter in our national life is being written.

It is my privilege to be your Chief Guest this morning and I thank you for the thoughtful invitation. 

To all the professionals who have travelled from across the region and the world, may I welcome you on behalf of all Fijians.

It is heartening to note that experts in the field of oral health have come from countries located on either side of the equator like Germany, Japan, Australia and Hong Kong to present your advances in research and clinical care. 

I am sure that you will get to enjoy the true Fijian hospitality that prevails not only in this conference but also in other parts of Fiji.  It is a matter of pride for us that the Fiji National University has joined hands with the Asia Pacific Society of Periodontology to organise this conference with the overarching theme of “Healthy Gums For Healthy Body Systems’’.

This is very timely because I have been told recently that there is a close and proven link between oral health - especially periodontal disease or gum disease in layman’s term - and Non-Communicable Diseases like diabetes, heart attacks and stroke, among others.

I am also told that science is pointing and therefore confirming that oral disease is an NCD risk factor, as well as being an NCD itself. There is no doubt that the incidences of oral diseases like dental caries and periodontal diseases, are increasing and this is resulting in not only economic loss but also diminished quality of life. NCDs, as we speak, present a large national, economic and personal toll on our people, not only in Fiji but through the Pacific region as well.

As Fiji’s champion in promoting good health and reducing NCDs, I am personally very happy to see the developments towards addressing the root causes of NCDs. I am also aware many countries in our region are also taking a stand against NCDs.

Dental science has come a long way with advances in research and development and has a number of subspecialties to comprehensively combat diseases of the mouth. 

The dental profession in Fiji in particular is in a unique position to support our National NCD Policy and Strategy by taking into consideration the following;

The shared risk factors with other NCDs, e.g. excess sugar intake, carbonated drinks, and smoking.

Commitment by dental professionals to contribute their experience in the prevention and early diagnosis of NCDs. Many undiagnosed NCDs are first suspected and detected by dental practitioners and referred to the medical officers.

Where resources are scarce, dentists are willing to combine their resources and expertise with primary health care providers and teachers in prevention and health promotion strategies
It is thus imperative that conferences such as these throw light on recent advances and stimulate debate to increase awareness amongst our health professionals. 

I am of the view that medical and dental practitioners must take more proactive leadership roles to ensure decision makers, stakeholders, partners in health and the community move towards reducing the burden of NCDs and infirmity.

I am confident that the deliberations in this conference are going to stimulate health policy leaders and planners to take a fresh look at health care needs, not only in overall health care delivery, but also have special emphasis on optimal dental health. 

I also hope that all the dental professionals attending this colloquium will take full advantage of this rare opportunity to improve your knowledge and skills. 

You should also take this time to meet new colleagues and form relationships to enhance oral health in the region. 

I inspire you all to live a healthy lifestyle to protect you and your loved ones from the onslaught of NCDs. As we are all aware, leaders will never be convincing advocates if they do not practice what they preach. I therefore invite you all to join the Nation’s efforts in promoting wellness by making wellness part of our lives.

I wish to congratulate and commend both the Fiji National University and the Asia Pacific Society of Periodontology for organising this conference. I also wish the participants every success.

It would be remiss of me if I were not to invite you all to also join the national celebrations on Monday especially if you are able to extend your stay in Fiji. 

Ladies and gentlemen, I now take great pleasure in declaring your conference officially open.

May God Bless You All. 

Vinaka vakalevu, Dhanyavaad, Sukria, Fai’eksia and thank you.