Leadership, bike rides and paddling for better health in Samoa

Samoa's Honourable Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi, is leading his country's efforts to control tobacco by launching World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) on 31 May 2013. The event included innovative community activities – the USO bike ride and a regatta race, collaborative initiatives of the Samoa Cancer Society, Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development, and the World Health Organization.

A personal message

In his opening address the Prime Minister told a personal story about why quitting smoking is so important. He emphasized the need for early action and health checks to identify tobacco-related diseases, and spoke of the power of campaigns and advocacy to help people quit.

USO Bike Ride and Regatta Paddlers

The USO Bike Ride was a key activity in Samoa's WNTD events this year. 'Uso' is a Samoan word for brother, and for the USO Bike ride, 'USO' also stands for 'Understanding Strengthening Overcoming' - empowering communities to improve health outcomes.

From 27 – 31 May 2013, a group of Samoan men from New Zealand cycled over 400 kilometers around Samoa's two largest islands (Upolo and Savaii) to promote healthy living and encourage men to get cancer checks. Stopping in 12 villages along the way, the Bike Ride directly reached 264 people who attended community health education sessions on cancer screening, smoking cessation, limiting alcohol consumption, healthy eating, and physical activity.

Samoa’s Regatta Association also paddled in support of WNTD , healthy living, and WHO’s Blue Ribbon Campaign which recognises community champions in tobacco control.

The route to better health

With high level leadership to promote health displayed by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi and grass roots community activities like the USO Bike Ride, Samoa's efforts to improve health are on the right track to the Health Sector's vision of "A Healthy Samoa".