While serving as the managing director and CEO of Fiji Airways, experienced aviation business leader David Pflieger led the company to achieve a positive impact on its local communities. In addition to guiding Fiji’s largest national airline in initiatives to bolster sustainability and preserve the island nation’s natural environment, Mr. Pflieger orchestrated key partnerships that benefited public health.
In a joint effort with Zens Medical Centre, Fiji Airways helped to establish Fiji’s first wellness clinic in May 2013. The Fiji Airways Wellness Clinic now provides a wide range of preventable health resources aimed at curbing many of the most common avoidable causes of death among Fijians, including heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. The partnership between Fiji Airways and Zens Medical Centre has also helped to promote the importance of regular exercise and a healthy diet for long-term health. Beyond facilitating the clinic’s inception, Fiji Airways contributed $40,000 to pay off financing for the facility’s dialysis machine and made an additional three-year pledge of $100,000 to provide free preventive care to both Fiji Airways employees and the general public.
Within its first month of operation, the Fiji Airways Wellness Clinic served more than 70 patients and provided preventive health care screenings for over 500 individuals in 2014. Going forward, the clinic expects to treat approximately 960 patients each year.
The Foundation for Rural Integrated Enterprises & Development (FRIEND) takes a holistic approach in its efforts to improve quality of life in Fiji, combining social, economic, and health resources to help underserved communities overcome poverty. Recently, the nonprofit funded an Organic Study Tour to India for the eight Fijian farmers who received the FRIEND Grow Star Award. The commendation recognized farmers from Viti Levu and Vanua Levu for agricultural best practices and allowed the group to travel to India to learn about the nation’s innovative agricultural strategies.
During the tour, the group visited several organic farms and food production facilities in India’s Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh regions. The farmers acquired firsthand knowledge of agricultural interventions such as organic insecticides, fungicides, and compost, as well as strategies for water harvesting. Upon returning home, they were able to share their knowledge of techniques for collecting rain water and improving water tables with the creation of ponds, in addition to methods of rejuvenating barren farmland with organic manure.
The Grow Star Awards program that facilitated the Organic Study Tour is the result of 2.8 million euros of funding from the European Union (EU). In 2012, the EU presented FRIEND with significant resources to improve Fiji’s farming communities through agricultural projects and education.
A homegrown community development nongovernmental organization, the Foundation for Rural Integrated Enterprises and Development (FRIEND) aims to empower communities in Fiji’s rural and underserved regions. Based on the west coast of Fiji’s main island, FRIEND works to improve the knowledge, skills, and resources of communities through a variety of integrated social, economic, and health interventions.
One of FRIEND’s current programs targets a key health issue among Fijians: diabetes. In 2011, Pacific Islands Forum Leaders declared Fiji a noncommunicable disease crisis zone, with NCDs accounting for 80 percent of all deaths in the country. Of those NCDs, diabetes is the number-two killer, second only to cardiovascular disease.
In response, FRIEND has launched the SMILE initiative: Sustainable Medicine Improving Lives through Empowerment. SMILE adopts a community medicine approach, with medical workers, such as doctors, nurses, exercise specialists, and physiotherapists, conducting regular NCD clinics in remote or poor communities. Each community is screened for diabetes. Patients with diabetes receive follow-up care and referrals, and the entire community receives support in starting its own exercise programs and appointing its own physical exercise leader or coordinator.
Focused around adopting a healthy diet, further awareness programs include developing backyard gardens so that communities can grow their own fruits and vegetables.
About David Pflieger
David Pflieger - Senior Airline Executive