Climate change and socioeconomic determinants are structural constraints to agency in diet-related non-communicable disease prevention in Vanuatu: a qualitative study

Savage, Amy, Bambrick, Hilary, McIver, Lachlan, and Gallegos, Danielle (2021) Climate change and socioeconomic determinants are structural constraints to agency in diet-related non-communicable disease prevention in Vanuatu: a qualitative study. BMC Public Health, 21. p. 1231.

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Background: Pacific Island countries, many of which are low- and middle-income countries, have some of the highest rates of diet-related non-communicable diseases (DR-NCDs) globally. These countries also face some of the earliest and most significant impacts of climate change. Several pathways between climate change and DR-NCDs have been described in the literature; however, the scope is broad and lacks context specificity. This paper uses a case study of one Pacific Island country, Vanuatu, to investigate links between climate change and DR-NCDs.

Methods: An ethnographic qualitative research approach was used to share the lived experiences of community participants and to explore and contrast these with the perspectives of key informants at the national level. Data collection comprised thirty-two semi-structured interviews and community fieldwork in two villages using a mix of methods, including group workshops, informal conversations, and observations. Reflexive thematic analysis was conducted on both data sets.

Results: This study found that DR-NCDs are a prominent health concern for ni-Vanuatu people and that structural determinants, including climate change, are the main driving forces for increased DR-NCD risk in the country. However, there was a lack of understanding of the links between climate change and DR-NCDs both at the community and national levels. Structural factors, such as social determinants and climate change, constrained individual and community agency in making optimal food and health choices and promoted the nutrition transition in Vanuatu. Despite the critical role of social determinants and climate change in driving DR-NCD risk, the responsibility for prevention and treatment was considered to rest mainly with the individual. A systems approach is advocated to grasp the complexity and interrelatedness of the causes of DR-NCD risk.

Conclusions: The interaction of structural determinants creates food and health environments that amplify the risk, burden, and consequences of DR-NCDs. It is recommended that the DR-NCD narrative in Vanuatu be re-framed with an emphasis on the range of structural determinants of DR-NCD risk. This will serve to enhance individual and collective agency to not only make healthy food and other behavioural choices but also to exercise agency to transform the structures in a culturally appropriate way.

Item ID: 70326
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1471-2458
Keywords: Climate change, Food security, Non-communicable diseases, Nutrition, Nutrition transition, Qualitative
Copyright Information: © The Author(s). 2021. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.
Date Deposited: 29 Apr 2022 00:05
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