Before Europeans arrived in the Samoan archipelago, islanders who had settled there 3,000 years ago were strong and healthy as early photographs show. They lived in harmony with the land and sea that sustained their health and way of life. Recent statistics reveal the rapid emergence of a health crisis among this once strong and healthy population: non-communicable diseases have reached epidemic levels contributing to what is now a regional and global pandemic.

According to the World Health Organisation (2015), half of all adults in Samoa are at high risk of developing NCDs such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Despite improvements in overall health over the past few decades, the prevalence of NCDs in Samoa is high and growing. An estimated 94% of the adult population is overweight and 75% is obese. In addition, almost half of the population surveyed had diabetes.

“The Heavy Burden,” a documentary film by Galumalemana Steven Percival, explores what may be causing the crisis and what may be done to lessen it; a problem that is carried by those suffering unnecessarily from chronic diseases and collectively by a society that is slowly being crippled by its impacts.