The Republic of the Marshall Islands has seen a dramatic increase in obesity and related chronic diseases as its population has become more dependent on imported (and mostly high-fat, high-calorie) food sources. Pacific Islanders, like minority populations in the United States (African American, Hispanic, Native American, and others) are disproportionately affected by diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and other chronic conditions.
Republic of the Marshall Island Facts
- Located 2,000 miles southwest of Hawaii
- Population ~ 50,000, spread across 33 islands grouped into two parallel chains.
- Sixty percent of the population lives in one of two urban centers.
- There is little diversity in edible fruits and vegetables, and therefore a limited supply of local food.
- Six supermarkets and wholesale stores supply over 95 percent of all imported food consumed in the country.
- Approximately 80-90 percent of all food/kcals consumed in the urban areas is supplied by imported foods.
- Approximately 25-50 percent of all food/kcals consumed in the outer islands is supplied by imported foods.
Cortes, L.M.*, Gittelsohn, J., Alfred J, and Palafox, N. (2001) “Formative Research to Inform Intervention Development for Diabetes Prevention in the Republic of the Marshall Islands,” Health Education and Behavior 28(6):696-715.
Gittelsohn, J., Haberle, H., Vastine, A.*, Dyckman, W.*, and Palafox, N. (2003) “Macro and Micro-level Processes Affect Food Choice and Nutritional Status in the Republic of the Marshall Islands,” Journal of Nutrition 133(1): 310S-313S.
Gittelsohn, J., Dyckman, W.*, Tan, M.L.*, Boggs, M.K., Frick, K.D., Alfred, J., Winch, P.J., Haberle, H., and Palafox, N. (2006) “Development and Implementation of a Food Store Intervention to Improve Diet in the Republic of the Marshall Islands,” Health Promotion Practice, Aug 2; [Epub ahead of print].
Gittelsohn J, Dyckman W*, Alfred J, Boggs MK, Haberle H., Fricke KD, Vastine AV*, and Palafox N. (2007) “A Pilot Food Store Intervention is Associated with Improved Health Knowledge, Food Purchasing and Preparation Behaviors in the Republic of the Marshall Islands,” Pacific Health Dialogue, 14(2): 43-53.