Based on the island of Viti Levu in Fiji, the Foundation for Rural Integrated Enterprises and Development (FRIEND) leverages social, economic, and health care programs in an effort to assist underprivileged families and communities. Many of its initiatives are focused on remedying the nation’s non-communicable disease (NCD) crisis status as classified by the Pacific Forum Leaders. This is due to the fact that approximately 80 percent of deaths in Fiji result from lifestyle-related health conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
To combat this widespread issue, FRIEND launched Sustainable Medicine Improving Lives through Empowerment (SMILE), an initiative focused on delivering sustainable community medical services to those in need. SMILE’s team of doctors, nurses, and physical therapists regularly hosts NCD clinics in underserved communities, where they provide free screenings, referrals, and medication for conditions such as diabetes. The program also draws on the support of physiotherapists and physical trainers, who visit the homes of diabetes and stroke patients to help them develop healthy, active lifestyles.
In addition to delivering medical care, SMILE encourages healthy living by establishing community-wide exercise programs and encouraging residents to begin gardening in their own backyards. The initiative includes a focus on proper nutrition, emphasizing the importance of fruits, vegetables, and other healthy staples and seeking to limit local dependence on processed foods.
FRIEND first introduced SMILE on the west cost of Viti Levu and expanded its efforts to Labasa in 2012. In 2013, it garnered governmental support for the cause of public health by forging a new partnership with Fiji’s national Ministry of Health.